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Ahmed Afifi Appreciates the Privilege of Being a Physician

Physicians often speak of the privilege of practicing medicine. That's especially true for Dr. Ahmed Afifi.


The UW Health plastic and reconstructive surgeon was destined for a career in medicine. Both of his parents, as well as a brother and sister, are doctors. But little did he know that this career path would lead him to play an important role at a turning point in the history of his home country.


While he was a medical student at Cairo University Medical School in Egypt, Afifi had his sights set on the United States, motivated by the opportunities for research and education.


After earning his medical degree in 1995, he completed fellowships at highly respected American institutions, including craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, hand surgery and microsurgery at the University of New Mexico and aesthetic and breast reconstruction surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. He also completed a research fellowship while at the Cleveland Clinic.


That's where his career took an unexpected turn.


After his fellowships in Cleveland, Afifi was offered a position at UW Health in 2010. But before coming to Madison, he had to return home to Egypt to renew his visa.


It was at this time that the Egyptian revolution began. Afifi found himself on the front lines as he cared for the wounded on both sides of the uprising. He stayed for about 10 months before finally joining the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health's Department of Surgery.


Afifi said the experience changed his perspective on many aspects of his life. Beyond the lasting image of the power of human faith and determination, working in the field gave Afifi a new appreciation for his medical training. He's proud of the contributions he was able to make as a surgeon.


"Being a physician is a privileged position," Afifi said. "Whatever happens, in times of peace or in times of war, we're always there helping people. That's a big opportunity."


From Cancer Care to Aesthetic Surgery


At UW Health, Afifi specializes in general plastic and reconstructive surgery, with an emphasis on partial and total breast reconstruction, surgery for migraines and microvascular surgery. He also has a practice at Transformations, where he focuses on aesthetic surgery.


Afifi originally planned to follow his father's footsteps and become an orthopedic surgeon, but he was drawn to plastic surgery because of the wide spectrum of patients the discipline covers. He may see children with congenital craniofacial anomalies, people who have injuries due to trauma or patients interested in post-bariatric body contouring.


"There's just so much variability and creativity," Afifi said of the appeal of plastic and reconstructive surgery.


Afifi also is a member of the breast care team at the UW Carbone Cancer Center. Building on his training in microsurgery and experience working with breast reconstruction surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic, Afifi and colleagues are able to provide several options for women post-mastectomy - whether it be immediate surgery or delayed - including flap reconstruction, which uses the patient's own tissue, as well as reconstruction with implants.


Afifi and fellow UW Health surgeon Dr. Samuel Poore offer Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator (DIEP) flap reconstruction, a surgical innovation that offers women with early-stage breast cancer the option of a mastectomy and reconstruction in one procedure.


"I'm really glad that we can offer patients the whole gamut of different oncologic options and reconstructive options," Afifi said.


Shaping the Future of Patient Care


Afifi has active education and research interests. One of his primary goals as an investigator is to examine outcomes in order to provide useful data to help patients make informed decisions when considering options for reconstructive breast surgery.


He appreciates research's role in shaping the future of patient care.


"I think that's one of the most rewarding aspects as physicians, not only treating patients on a day-to-day basis, but actually changing the way that patients are managed and treated."


Afifi, an assistant professor in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, is also involved in teaching residents. The Department of Surgery's plastic and reconstructive surgery residency provides well-rounded training, including trauma cases and rotations at UW Health's Craniofacial Anomalies Clinic. The program also offers opportunities for basic and translational research.


"We have some of the best plastic surgery residents across the country," Afifi said. "That's one of the main goals of our department, to have a great residency program where we can graduate the future leaders and innovators in plastic surgery."

Date Published: 08/29/2011

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Ahmed Afifi Appreciates the Privilege of Being a Physician

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