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Faculty Focus: Cassim Igram, MD

Date: Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cassim IgramMeet Cassim Igram, MD, Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

What is your hometown?

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?


How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

In high school.  I had very good math and science teachers, and enjoyed both subjects.  It was fun.

I knew in high school I wanted to be a doctor.

What interested you to pursue a career in Orthopedics and Rehabilitation?

This department. 

As a third year student, I rotated through Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, and knew this was for me.

I saw how smart and talented the surgeons were and their commitment to good patient care.   They all enjoyed their work. I thought I could do this work for the rest of my life.  And, besides, they worked with power tools.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

My father and grandfather.

My father was a dentist.  His advice to me when choosing a career was, “no matter what you choose, do it well.” 

My grandfather emigrated from Lebanon.  He worked very hard for his family.  He gave to his children because he wanted a better life for them than he had.

The Orthopedic and Rehabilitation faculty have also provided mentorship as well.  They modeled how rewarding this discipline can be.

 How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?

My father went to the University of Iowa Dental School. 

When I was young, I went to basketball and football games and have been a Hawkeye ever since.

The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient centered care and education?

As a tertiary medical care center, we are involved in cutting edge care.  We are one of the top orthopedic and rehabilitation centers in the country: research, patient care, and training.

As a spine surgeon, my hope is to always create a welcoming environment to my patients and to provide the very best care.

I look for ways to be innovative and to be more effective as well as efficient.

What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?

Faculty members in this department are in national leadership positions.  They guest lecture at other institutions world-wide.  The research opportunities are tremendous. 

Our faculty members are well-known and are well respected.  I benefit from having such great colleagues.

Please describe your professional interests.

Degenerative disorders of the spine, as well as spinal trauma, tumors, and infections.

What led to your interest in your field?

When I rotated through this department as a 3rd year medical student I knew this was the correct field for me.

How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?

  • Collaboration – I work with surgeons from Neurosurgery.  We meet monthly to discuss challenging cases. By working with others, I am in turn a better surgeon.
  • Resources – Within my department, I have good, talented people to work with, state of the art equipment, up- to- date research findings, and access to data, etc.
  • Referrals – Being a state institution, I have a large referral base.

What are some of your outside interests?

Travelling with my wife, biking, as well as water skiing & boating on Lake Delhi.  I am also a big model train enthusiast.  I design my towns, lay the tracks, and make the cars. 

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

To bring my “A” game every time.  Take time to do the very best I can as a surgeon.  Strive for perfection.

If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine/science), what would it be?

The amount of paperwork.  Medicine is an art.  Sometimes it seems that we are losing the art of healing when focusing so much on technology and e-records.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

My career path.  I expected to start and stay until I retired from private practice.  Now I am here.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

It is a privilege to be a surgeon. 

Training and preparation takes a tremendous amount of time, dedication, and commitment.  You give up a lot to become an orthopedic surgeon.  If you are willing to spend 14 years in training you will find happiness. 

Never lose site of the ultimate goal.  Orthopedics is a lofty goal.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine/science?

Residents and medical students are smart and hard working.  We are in good hands.

In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e. population based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?

I sit on national boards such as the Board of Counselors for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  I present lectures and seminars to medical students, residents, fellows, and colleagues

I strive to provide great patient care every day.

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