Parodi joins UNC Surgery as part of their expanding complex aortic disease team

Ezequiel Parodi, MD, is the new associate professor with UNC Surgery in the division of vascular surgery. He sat down to discuss what inspired him to become a surgeon, why he chose to pursue academic medicine, and his work with complex aortic disease.

Parodi joins UNC Surgery as part of their expanding complex aortic disease team click to enlarge Ezequiel Parodi, MD

Dr. Parodi received his medical degree in 2003 from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.  After finishing medical school, he came to the United States and completed a 2-year research fellowship at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2005.  He then completed a general surgery internship at the University of Miami at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida in 2007, an integrated vascular surgery residency at the University of South Florida in 2012, and an aortic fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in 2013.  Before coming to UNC, Dr. Parodi worked at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and was an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Learner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University.  He will be specializing in providing open and endovascular care to patients with vascular disease with an emphasis on complex aortic disease.

What inspired you to become a doctor/surgeon?

Growing up in Argentina, I watched my father, a pioneer in vascular surgery, care for patients. He was passionate about his work and would come home and talk to us about the advances in medicine he was making. He pushed the needle forward in the development of techniques and devices in the vascular repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms. It had a big influence on me because while I didn’t understand at the time what he was talking about, it planted the seed in my mind of pursuing medicine. After I completed my training, I could fully understand the stories my father was so excited to share with us as I was growing up.

How did you decide to pursue your current specialty? Has it met your expectations?

After medical school, I completed a research fellowship at Washington University in the Department of Vascular Surgery. My research included basic science, two years of asking questions, and conducting tests to answer those questions. I had the opportunity to do endovascular procedure tests with different devices in animal models. I loved the procedures I was getting to do and the hands-on experience I was getting. It was at that point that I knew a career in vascular surgery was the right step for me. It has met and surpassed all of my expectations.

What brought you to the Department of Surgery at UNC?

While at the Cleveland Clinic for my aortic fellowship, my main role was aortic surgery and complex endovascular repair with fenestrated and branched grafts. I’ve known Dr. Mark Farber, Chief of the UNC Surgery Division of Vascular Surgery, for many years. He developed the Aortic Center at UNC where he focuses on complex endovascular repair with fenestrated and branched grafts. His practice is at such a large volume that he was looking for support with these type of cases, and he recruited me. I was excited by the idea of bringing my experience from a high-volume place like the Cleveland Clinic to UNC Medical Center to take care of the patients of North Carolina.

Why did you decide to pursue academic medicine?

I chose academic medicine because it afforded me the opportunity to do more than be in the OR. As an academic surgeon, I’m a teacher, and I enjoy working with residents and fellows, teaching the next generation of surgeons and surgeon-scientists. Because of my interest in complex vascular procedures, I get the chance to be a part of clinical trials and research. Those are things you can only do it at an Academic Center like UNC Surgery, and I am fortunate to continue my career here.

What does it mean to you to be able to help a patient?

Like any other specialty, vascular surgery can be very challenging because our patients are not the healthiest, they present to us with multiple disease processes. I have to say that endovascular procedures have changed how we can take care of these patients. Minimally invasive surgery provides good, durable results, decreasing the chance of complications. I am committed to making sure patients have good outcomes and improved quality of life after surgery. We still do open surgery for young patients who are healthy, but elderly patients will not recover well, and the last thing you want to do is have a patient have a surgery and be in a nursing home for the rest of their life.

Is there a particular achievement (professional or personal) that has been most gratifying to you?

I’m proud of the additional training that I completed, which included an aortic fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic on top of my robust vascular surgery residency program. It allowed me to gain the experience I needed to be able to do complex, detailed, aortic procedures. These procedures are difficult and time-consuming. After two years of doing those intricate cases I thought I had it the process down and then four years after that, I felt even more comfortable. I learn something new each day and continue to be a life-long learner.

If you give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

If I could impart a piece of advice to my younger self, it would be to work hard and make sure you have good mentors. Always ask for help and be sure to help other people.

What is one thing you wish your patients or coworkers knew about you before they meet you?

Patients and coworkers alike find out right away that I'm honest and I get to the point. My patients appreciate the honesty I bring to our interactions, explaining to them what they can expect from surgery and recovery, what we can do for them. I don't talk in circles to avoid answering their questions, and it helps to alleviate fears and put them at ease in our relationship.

What do you do when you aren't working?

When I’m not in the OR, I like to spend time with my family, my wife, and three kids. I also enjoy being active and going to CrossFit. We enjoy traveling as a family, and our favorite travel spots include Italy, Edinburgh, and most recently Belgium.

How would you describe yourself in one word?

Dedicated

Can you give me an example of a failure in your career and how you cherish it now?

After my research fellowship, I was very close to getting a training position at an institution in New York. There was an error in my paperwork, and that institution wasn’t on my list for the match. I ended up going somewhere else and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me. New York wasn’t the right place for me. I am happy with my training at the University of South Florida and blessed in the people I met and the experience I received; things worked out for the best in my career.

So why do you do what you do? What gets you up in the morning?

My personality takes joy from being challenged; it’s why I enjoy doing complex surgeries so much because I work with patients that many other providers may not take on. It motivates me to get up each morning and work with patients to try to find the best way to take care of them.

Can you give me an example of a time when you had to overcome an obstacle on your road to being a surgeon?

One of the biggest obstacles I faced in my career came very early in my training. My intern year at the University of Miami was tough. I came here from another country, stepping into a situation that I haven’t foreseen. I could speak English, but I was surprised to learn that the names of the major medications were different. The first day on call, not knowing the name of any medication, you don't know anything. That was very challenging. Those were the most stressful first two months of my career. Once I survived that year I knew I would be able to survive anything.

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