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Kissell’s love of anatomy, relationships flow at Penrose St. Francis

Thu, May 24, 2012

One on One

Laura Kissell, 38, got her first glimpse at medical care while following her father on his weekend patient rounds.

That experience led her to become a doctor, and her medical school experience gave her a fascination with the “awesome machine of the human body.”

As a vascular and thoracic surgeon at Penrose-St. Francis Hospital, she studies that machine every day.

Kissell received her general surgery residency and fellowships at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and also has a formal fellowship in interventional radiology. She specializes in wound care at Penrose.

Why did you decide to become a vascular surgeon?

I always knew I wanted to be in medicine. My father was a general internist, and when I was a kid, I used to follow him on weekends as he did his rounds. I loved the long relationships he had with his patients and how helping people was so satisfying for him.

In medical school, I became fascinated with the awesome machine of the human body. As a surgeon, I get to study anatomy every day. The disease processes of vascular surgery that I treat includes atherosclerosis, aneurysms, diabetes and venous insufficiency which are all chronic, progressive lifelong diseases that require repeat evaluation and surveillance. I have found a surgical specialty where I get to have the same long relationships with patients that my Dad did. I also love the instant gratification of sewing a bypass or repairing a blood vessel and immediately seeing and hearing the blood flow resume.

What’s changed about the medical field since you became a doctor?

There is a trend in medicine now that many physicians are aligning with hospitals or becoming hospital employees. The five surgeons in our practice, Penrose Cardio, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery, all employees of the Centura Health Physician Group. This enables us to care for everybody.

Do you have any advice for medical school students who might be interested in your field?

Pace yourself. In order to practice a surgical specialty, the residency and fellowship takes about seven years. I trained at the University of North Carolina where half of the surgical residents were women. Even in such a female friendly environment, most women delayed trying to start their families until after their training. You have to realize that choosing such a long training road will affect a lot more than just your career.

What would you like to see changed in Colorado Springs?

As a doctor, I would like to see fewer cigarette smokers. People think that cigarettes only cause what’s written on the pack, “Low birth weight and lung cancer.” What they don’t know is that smoking causes aneurysms to grow and atherosclerotic disease which can lead to amputation.

You’re in a high-stress field. What do you do to relax after work?

After work, I unwind by chasing my 2-year-old son, Mason, around the house, yard, park, etc.

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