Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

Ahmed Rahman, MD, FASC Story


Retiring surgeon begins a new chapter as a writer and a painter

by Rob Lauer

Dr. Ahmed Rahman with Office Assistants Ashley Coles, right and Arlene Yerro, left.

Dr. Ahmed Rahman with Office Assistants Ashley Coles, right and Arlene Yerro, left.

When Dr. Ahmed Rahman thinks ahead to August, he feels more than a little apprehension.

“I’m retiring on July 31,” the Chesapeake surgeon explains, “so, it’s only natural that I feel somewhat apprehensive. After all, surgery has been my life; I love it. I have spent the last 45 years performing surgeries, and I have truly enjoyed it—particularly the more challenging cases. I’m not sure what I will feel when I wake up on August first, but whatever the feelings may be, I’ll deal with them then,” he says with a smile.

Throughout his boyhood in India, Dr. Rahman dreamed of one day becoming a surgeon.

“For as far back as I can remember, I never wanted to do anything else,” he confesses. “I don’t know whether that fact that my mother passed away because of gallstones, had something to do with it or not. Even when I was in seventh grade, I was told by my advisors at school that I should become a surgeon.”

When asked if, as a youth, he had any particular abilities or talents that made him suited for such a career, Dr. Rahman pauses thoughtfully.

“I have always been pretty good with my hands,” he replies after a moment. “And my mind has always been rather quick when it comes to solving problems. I never felt particularly gifted in math, but I have always thought in visual terms, and somehow this has allowed me to solve problems in a matter of seconds. Thinking visually has also served me well as a surgeon: I could always visualize the surgery before it was done. In the midst of the more complex cases, I’ve been able to study the situation carefully and visualize performing the entire surgery in my mind, one step at a time, before actually beginning the procedure. I always began a surgery with a clear visual picture in my mind of the final result.”

One of Dr. Rahman's lovely landscapes

One of Dr. Rahman's lovely landscapes

After finishing medical school in India, Dr. Rahman came to the United States in 1976. “I completed my residency in Milwaukee,” he recounts, “and graduated in 1982 from the Medical College of Wisconsin.” Why didn’t he stay in Wisconsin? “It was too cold there,” he replies with a laugh. “So, I came to Chesapeake in 1983.”

“I performed general and vascular surgery, but I always loved the more complex cases,” Dr. Rahman explains. “I was able to establish myself as a pancreatic surgeon. In fact, I did the most number of pancreatic cases at Chesapeake General Hospital. I usually averaged between 15 and 20 such surgeries a year. That is a very high volume.”

Dr. Rahman attributes much of his success as a surgeon to the skill and dedications of his surgical team and his office staff.

After decades of such work, how will Dr. Rahman fill his days once retired? Like many retirees, he plans to travel and spend more time on the golf course. But he also intends on devoting time to a more recent interest: painting.

With places to visit, art to create and books to write,
it looks as if Dr. Rahman will remain active and on the move for years to come.
Perhaps, this beloved, highly-respected surgeon
shouldn’t feel apprehensive about retirement after all.

When asked about work as an artist, Dr. Rahman pulls up photos on his cell phone of recent work in much the same way a proud parent might show off the latest pictures of a beloved child. His paintings are more than impressive: they are remarkable considering that he has had no professional artistic training—just a keen eye and a way with his hands. Many of his paintings are landscapes, thick with trees and vegetation. Artists generally concede that green is the hardest color to use; it often ends up looking garish or artificial. However, the greens in Dr. Rahman’s landscapes shimmer with photographic intensity.

“I always had an interest in art,” he admits, “but as a youngster, I didn’t have the resources to pursue it. Then about ten years ago, I decided to try my hand at painting. I knew absolutely nothing about colors, but thank goodness, you can go on YouTube and learn all about them.”
His latest work depicts a young doctor, exhausted from a long shift, laying across a chair fast asleep. Not all of the colors have been applied, but proportionally, the figure of the sleeping doctor is nearly photographic in its realism. “When I complete this one, it will be entitled The Day After on Call. I understand what he is feeling,” Dr. Rahman adds, looking at the unfinished picture of the exhausted physician. “When you’re a surgeon on call, that is your life.”

Dr. Rahman's latest work in progress,

Dr. Rahman's latest work in progress, "The Day After on Call"

If Dr. Rahman has his way, his future will include life as a writer. He has three books that he plans to write. He has selected titles for all three, but one seems particularly intriguing: Death by Purity.

In this book, Dr. Rahman plans to deal with what he considers an emerging health crisis: the fact that Americans’ overuse of antibiotics and our obsession with cleanliness and purity is playing havoc with our natural immune systems.

In the Third World countries, starving people scavenge food from dumpsters and survive. But here, if we touch something, we get sick because we have no immunity. When I was younger, I worked in parts of Africa where no antibiotics were available, and the infection rate there was lower than what we have here. We’re moving farther and farther away from bacteria—which is essential for keeping us alive and fighting infections. We have treated water coming from the tap and yet we still run it through filters before drinking it. What we’re doing is wrong: we’re too concerned about sterility. We need to be exposed to a certain number of germs in order to maintain our immune systems.”

When asked about other ways that Americans can improve their health, he answers with one word: move.

“In cities such as New York, you don’t find as many overweight people because the average New Yorker walks about seven miles a day,” Dr. Rahman says. “I was recently in the Philippines and it took me a long time to find someone there who was overweight. My advice to everyone is move and stay active.”

With places to visit, art to create and books to write, it looks as if Dr. Rahman will remain active and on the move for years to come. Perhaps, this beloved, highly-respected surgeon shouldn’t feel apprehensive about retirement after all.

A note from Dr. Rahman:

Dear Patients,
I’m writing to inform you that effective July 31, 2018. I will be retiring. It has been a great privilege to know you and to help you with your health over the years.

From August 1, 2018, please follow-up with your Primary Care Physician who will guide you to the right surgical specialist.

If you need medical records, please come by the office before July 31, 2018. Afterwards, call 757-652-2569 in regards to your medical records. The contents of your medical records are confidential and can be transferred to another doctor only with your permission.

—Ahmed A Rahman, MD, FACS

Ahmed Rahman, MD

113 Gainsborough Square
Chesapeake, VA 23320