Security, honesty and professionalism led Pakistani-American surgeon to make U.S. home

FARGO (North Dakota, US) — Dr. Ahmed Abdullah, a plastic surgeon, husband, dad of twin boys and proud resident of Fargo, had a dream of being a surgeon. His journey from Pakistan to the United States has led him to become a renowned plastic surgeon with 22 years of national and international experience.

“I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, but I spent most of my life in Karachi,” Abdullah said. He was studying at Sindh Medical College in 1976 when Pakistan experienced political turmoil.

At that time, “I decided to study abroad and took a chance to apply in an American institution. Luckily, I got a scholarship at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.”

After finishing college, he enrolled in medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he earned a medical degree. After Chicago, he completed his residency in general surgery and plastic general from University of Texas Medical Branch. Abdullah met his wife during his eight-year stay in Texas.

While many doctors would have preferred to go to bigger cities after their residency, Abdullah chose to live in Fargo because his wife’s family lives in North Dakota. He doesn’t regret living here instead of in New York or Chicago.

“I have spent lot of time in big cities. But I prefer to live here because Fargo is very family-oriented, friendly and safe,” he said. “There are no crimes here.”

Abdullah said the best part about practicing in Fargo is that “people are so great, loyal and appreciative.” And despite serious competition and challenges for a plastic surgeon, “I have earned a 22-year-long medical practice here in Fargo.”

Abdullah’s wife is also a surgeon, specializing in breast cancer surgery.

“My kids, twin boys who are now 21, were also born here,” he said. His sons were home-schooled from kindergarten to eighth grade and finished college when they were 20. One plans to move to China for business studies, while his brother is considering pursuing medicine education in the United States.

With their kids grown, the Abdullahs have decided to sell their sprawling mansion in south Fargo’s Rose Creek neighborhood for a smaller house, but he has no plans to move from the city.

One of the convincing reasons for Abdullah’s decision to spend the rest of his life in the United States is the sense of security, honesty of people, professionalism and accountability.

“When I first came here, I saw people put money in the newspaper vending machine, open the rack and took out only one newspaper and not the whole rack, even though nobody is watching them. I compared the same situation in Pakistan and thought how people would have taken out the whole bunch of newspaper,” he said sharing one of his initial observations about the U.S. and how he decided to make this country home.

But he still misses his home country and his friends with whom he shares 50-year friendships.

Abdullah said the U.S. is one of the best places for doctors’ training because of the practical training system. “You can’t practice medicine only by reading books. That’s what happens in Pakistan. Training makes the big difference.”

Abdullah originally was interested in becoming a heart surgeon.

“It was during my rotation (practical experience) that I learned about heart and plastic surgery. Then I realized, I hated heart surgery and loved plastic surgery!”

Over the last 22 years, Abdullah has built an international reputation as a plastic surgeon. He treats cosmetic and reconstructive surgery patients in the U.S. and United Arab Emirates. He has a medical license in Pakistan, Dubai and several U.S. states, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Florida and California.

Photo: Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Photo: Carrie Snyder / The Forum

In 1995, he started his own clinic called Plastic Surgery Institute. It offers a full range of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery procedures. In the last 20 years, the clinic has grown “from a rented little office to having five buildings now.”

On a regular day, he operates on one to four patients and sees about 20 to 40 patients a day once a week at his office.

The most satisfying experience is “patients’ satisfaction,” he beams. Words full of gratitude from total strangers, such as friends of his patients, are especially distinct to him.

General surgeons save people’s lives by removing an appendix or cancerous tumors, but all patients can see is the scar from surgery.

“But what I do, people can actually see the difference for themselves,” Abdullah said. “And that is the most rewarding aspect of plastic surgery.”

This article was originally published on The Forum

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