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General surgeon to join Skiff

Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 3:38 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, July 17, 2014 3:54 p.m. CST

By Stephanie Alexander

Special to the Daily News

General surgeon Rachel Knudson, D.O., will be joining Skiff Medical Center on Friday, Aug. 1.

Dr. Knudson recently finished her fifth and final year of general surgery internship and residency at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa and attended medical school at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

Brett Altman, Skiff’s President and CEO, said that Dr. Knudson will be a remarkable addition to the Skiff family. 

“In addition to being a highly skilled surgeon, she also has fantastic people skills.  She is warm and personable, which will be a great comfort to patients in need.”

“I knew from a young age that I wanted a career in medicine,” said Dr. Knudson, who grew up as an only child in a rural home near Marshalltown. “I liked the combination of helping people while also tackling the challenge of problem solving and thinking through each unique situation.”

During her high school years and her undergraduate schooling, in which she majored in biology and minored in psychology, Dr. Knudson worked at a veterans’ home in Marshalltown. Due to that experience, she thought she would pursue an internal medicine residency and ultimately specialize in geriatrics. That changed during an impression-making surgical rotation.

“I just fell in love with surgery,” she said. “I rotated with a lot of really good physicians and was blown away by the relationships they formed with their patients. They were so comforting to those they took care of. Their patients trusted them fully.”

The immediacy of surgery also appeals to her.

“Medication can absolutely help someone, but it can also take time. If I have a patient with a gallbladder problem and I go in and remove the gallbladder, once they’re awake, they’re better. The incision needs to heal, but the gallbladder problem is resolved. When you give a patient fast relief like that, you forge a really intense relationship right away.”

Another influential encounter during the latter portion of Dr. Knudson’s medical school was meeting Dr. Dominic Formaro, who is now Skiff’s general surgeon, when they were both training in Des Moines.

“I met Dr. Formaro when I was a fourth-year medical student and he was a fourth-year resident,” Dr. Knudson said. “He took me under his wing and I was impressed with what a good teacher he was.”

Dr. Knudson cites Mercy as a wonderful place to receive surgical training. 

“It’s the best combination of giving you access to complex cases but also a large volume of standard cases, since it’s a community hospital. The attendings want to teach, and the residents are given valuable amounts of autonomy.”

It’s not uncommon for people to refer to a surgeon’s journey as “difficult” and “long” when they realize Dr. Knudson and her peers have four years of college, four years of medical school and five years of residency. Dr. Knudson said she never thought of it that way, because it was her calling.

“This is my passion,” she said. “I like learning. I wouldn’t have picked anything else.”

The first step in Dr. Knudson’s eventually choosing to build her career at Skiff came in August 2012, when she joined Dr. Formaro for a month-long rotation in Newton.

“I wanted to see what a general surgeon did day in and day out,” she said. “I loved working here. I loved the community and the hospital. Everyone was so nice. And it happened to coincide with the time they were beginning to look for an additional general surgeon. Dr. Formaro asked me what I thought of Skiff and if I’d be interested in working here. I definitely was, so I’ve been coming and doing cases with him ever since.”

“Rachel is a great surgeon and wonderful friend,” Dr. Formaro said. “She and I have similar values, are both from Iowa, and share similar training. I know the quality of her surgical experience and have witnessed her kindness and good nature in practice. I am pleased she has chosen to join our Skiff family, and I hope her family finds the community as rewarding as mine has.”

Ann Polking, director of surgical services, said the OR staff is very happy Dr. Knudson will be joining Skiff.

“When she was here during her residency, the staff immediately felt like she would be a great addition to Skiff and frequently asked her if she had an interest in coming on board. She and Dr. Formaro will be a dynamic, patient-centric team caring for our surgical patients’ needs.”

The last year and a half have been full of other changes that weren’t career-related.  She married her husband Brady in January 2013 and they welcomed their infant son Sam this past March. They also purchased a home in Newton last fall and are now living here full time.

“I like being in a smaller town to raise my family in,” Dr. Knudson said. “I like it being a close-knit community, a place where you know your neighbors. It’s also an easy driving distance to places like Des Moines and Iowa City. I’m excited to get started at the hospital and get to know more people.”

Dr. Knudson practices the full range of general surgery: laparoscopic, open, breast, colorectal, oncologic, trauma, acute care surgery and critical care. In addition, she has received special training in breast surgery at the Katzman Breast Center in Des Moines. Her practice will include traditional and breast conserving techniques and sentinel lymph node mapping. She also received training in breast ultrasound and interventional techniques.

Dr. Knudson will be a partner in general surgery practice with Dr. Formaro at the Skiff Surgery Clinic, located at the northeast entrance of the Ross Medical Arts Building, 300 N. Fourth Ave. E.

Appointments are now being scheduled. Call (641) 787-3161 to learn more.

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