As a child, Dr. David Aanestad spent hours sketching and drawing, watching his meticulous creations emerge from the paper.
"What I learned from art was a single-minded focus and attention to detail," he says. "In surgery, whether it's a hernia repair or a laparoscopic gastric bypass, I apply those same skills to make the outcome as perfect as it can be."
It was a love of biology, physiology and anatomy, combined with a great admiration for his grandfather, a family practitioner in a small Iowa town, that led him to surgery. "My grandfather was a good physician who had a special relationship with his patients and his community. That relationship intrigued me," Dr. Aanestad says.
An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Aanestad draws parallels between his work and outdoor pursuits. "Nature is unpredictable; you have to plan ahead and prepare for adversity. When nature does the unexpected, you must have enough knowledge and flexibility to execute a new strategy to be successful. Surgery can pose similar challenges."
Knowledge is power for surgical patients, and Dr. Aanestad enjoys educating his patients and getting to know their stories. "I've always been fascinated with how the human body responds to the stresses of surgery. I still feel a sense of wonder every day and hope to convey that to my patients." He adds, "Developing trust and rapport is important. I want people to understand that surgery is not as straightforward as having their car fixed. There is more complexity when you're dealing with the variables of tissue and biology."
Counseling breast cancer patients at the Kenneth H. McKay M.D. Center for Breast Health presents unique challenges. "Patients often face a range of surgical options," he says. "Helping them make sense of a scary diagnosis and make surgical decisions is very rewarding."
Dr. Aanestad is the center's current medical director -- the fourth DSG surgeon to provide leadership since its founding member, Dr. Kenneth McKay, was its first medical director in 1994.
"Our DSG surgeons have active roles in many Genesis programs -- from bariatrics and breast health to trauma and oncology," Dr. Aanestad concludes. "We think it's important to integrate into these programs and provide leadership."