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Smiling comes easily to Tammer Elmarsafi, DPM. It’s the result of his inherent good nature, and his passion for helping patients diagnosed with lower limb issues arising from diabetes, ulcers and wounds.
What pleases Dr. Elmarsafi even more is knowing that regardless of the complexity of a patient’s condition, he and his MedStar Washington Hospital Center colleagues will craft a treatment plan that offers the highest rate of success.
“No one specialty can give a patient enough care,” Dr. Elmarsafi explains. “It requires an integrated approach, one that involves specialists from many disciplines—vascular surgery, plastic surgery, infectious diseases, physical therapy, nutrition and many others. Patients may work most closely with me, but I’m just a small part of a larger team, focused on achieving a successful outcome.”
The Path to Podiatric Surgery
A native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, Dr. Elmarsafi originally seemed destined for a career in biomedical research. His father reminded him, though, that he could make larger impact as a physician. He also found through service as an emergency medical technician for the local rescue squad that while he was attracted to the science aspects of medicine, “the connection with people was more enjoyable,” Dr. Elmarsafi says.
After attending the University of Cairo’s medical school and the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, Dr. Elmarsafi had his choice of podiatric surgery residencies. But his heart was set on the program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, which he followed up with a fellowship in diabetic limb salvage at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
"Coming here was a dream come true,” he says. “If you want to learn everything about how the body works, have good mentors and high-caliber residents to bounce ideas off of, this is the place. No matter the specialty, there’s a lot of collaboration.”
Such teamwork is important, as many of his cases tend to be quite complex and challenging.
"The lower extremities tend not to heal as routinely as other parts of the body, so a treatment plan for limb salvage often requires multiple surgeries,” Dr. Elmarsafi explains.
Such conditions can also be especially stressful for patients, who are understandably anxious about the possibility of worst-case outcomes. That’s why close attention to the individual’s mental state is as important as monitoring his or her physical condition.
"It’s my responsibility to be up-front about treatment, but also fully aware of the emotional toll,” Dr. Elmarsafi says. “If I see signs of depression, I’ll refer the patient immediately to specialists who can help.”
Tracking depression among patients with severe lower limb conditions is one of many research projects Dr. Elmarsafi has underway or planned, which helps podiatric surgery residents enjoy the same career development opportunities he enjoyed.
Outside the Hospital
With a family that includes three young boys, two of whom were born at the Hospital Center, free time in Dr. Elmarsafi’s life is a precious commodity. But when it does come about, he can usually be found outside hiking, fishing or kayaking on the Potomac River.
“Spending time in nature with family is how I relax,” Dr. Elmarsafi says. And you can bet just thinking about it is enough to make him smile.