From Surgical Urology to Restorative Medicine
An interview with:
George K. Ibrahim, MD, MBA
Biltmore Restorative Medicine & Aesthetics
· Grew up in Smithfield, NC
· Undergrad at Davidson College in North Carolina
· Medical degree at Duke Medical School
· Residency in urology and fellowship in urologic oncology at Duke
· Assistant clinical professor of urology, Duke University School of Medicine
· Chief, Division of urology at Oteen VA Medical Center
· Has sailed all over the world
How did you start in medicine?
I grew up in a medical family with my dad being a cardiac surgeon and my mom an anesthetist. Naturally, they influenced me as I watched them live out their medical vocations. I never saw myself being anything else but a physician. So when it was time for me to choose the direction of my life in college, I moved in the direction of medicine. I did my undergrad work at Davidson College in North Carolina and then moved on to Duke Medical School. I did my urology residency at Duke and then went on to staff the affiliated Oteen VA Medical Center, training eight resident physicians a year, the joy of teaching others being as fulfilling as the practice of medicine itself.
How do your life experiences make you a better physician?
In 2005 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Needless to say, this was a difficult time for me as a person and as a physician. Rather than put patients at risk, I retired as a surgeon. My love of medicine and helping others stayed with me throughout my time away from the operating room. I wanted to practice medicine but was not sure how this would translate for me during this new chapter of my life. Hormone-replacement therapies were just getting started with the new, safe, bio-identical treatments that were previously unavailable. I was fascinated by the opportunity to help people improve their health as well as feel and look better – naturally. Even though I wouldn't be saving lives as I did as a urologic-oncologist, I could change them for the better.
Tell us about the transition from urology to what you currently do.
I opened Asheville Healthspan MD in 2012 in Asheville, NC. My goal was simple: to be the most highly trained, experienced physician practicing hormone optimization, period. The practice later added state-of-the-art, physician-led aesthetic services as our patients demanded them. Because of my extensive experience, I am able to help my clients beyond typical hormone-replacement therapy. I’ve diagnosed prostate cancer in a number of patients who would have otherwise gone completely undetected, or where detection could have been delayed by years. My background allows me to detect symptoms in men, sending them directly to a practicing urologist who can confirm the diagnosis and take swift measures to treat this devastating cancer before it can cause harm. In 2015, to honor our mission of offering our clients a complete restorative experience, we re-branded the practice to become Biltmore Restorative Medicine and Aesthetics. With our beginnings in Asheville, NC, we quickly saw the need for what we offer in other locations, and so we launched our Nashville office.
What makes your business/practice unique in our community?
When I embarked on this journey I was in my early 50s. I was learning about hormone replacement while I was going through the challenges everyone faces during that season of life, and I was able to quickly see and feel the benefits myself as I learned about cutting-edge treatments available. So I have walked a mile in the shoes of all my patents that I see on a daily basis. Restorative medicine is a highly specialized field. There is an art to achieving the balance necessary to get optimal results. I researched how to become specifically certified in hormone management. I completed the fellowship offered by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in regenerative medicine.
As our patients began to feel so much better, they became interested in looking better. This was before there was a “medical spa” on every corner! So, to better serve my patients, I sought out the most talented trainers in the field to teach me the most sophisticated, safest, methods in this field. And urology could never leave me! With my decades of experience, my practice has a very intense focus on men and women’s sexual health, delivered uniquely for each situation. And then there is incontinence in women – what a joy to see women today become helped with minimally invasive, safe, in-office procedures! No need for the surgeries of before.
Talk about what patient care means to you?
I would sum it up in one word: individualization. My goal is always to tailor a protocol for that individual person and their specific conditions at their unique stage of life when I am seeing them. Too many other franchises or offices have their protocols dictated from corporate plans. Instead, we treat that unique individual with the specialization that they deserve.
What is the culture that you infuse into your practice?
Awareness. My staff is trained to be very aware of the patient, and know everything pertinent from their story. Our team is keenly aware of past medical conditions or situations that a patient has been dealing with, as well as goals that our patents have. Every patient has a unique story, and we want to help them get to where they want to be. The person that buys a shovel doesn't want a shovel, they want a hole. So my staff is extraordinarily good at asking the right questions and listening well so that we can serve our patients with excellence. Our approach at Biltmore Restorative Medicine and Aesthetics looks at the patient as a whole. We don’t focus on just one specific part of the body or disease, but rather take a comprehensive approach in our evaluations.
How do you try and maintain a balanced life outside of work?
This is very difficult for me! Running two practices in two different states is no small task! I have three grown kids and plan intentional time with them each year usually in the form of trips together. I am a voracious reader. I typically like non-fiction because I love to learn and am always seeking to improve myself, but when on vacation I love a good spy novel.
What motivates you? How did you stay engaged and push through when things get tough?
To stand still is to go backwards. When I had to stop operating, I could have easily retired with all the safeguards in place; however, the idea of doing nothing is anathema to me! I set goals to keep me engaged. I have plans to open other locations besides Asheville and Nashville. My daughter is in her fourth year in medical school, and I would love for her to join our practice, so that is a big motivator to me. I also love my staff, and I know they enjoy where they work and what they do. I can’t imagine not providing them with a wonderful place to work. When I was a urologic oncologist, I saved lives; what I do today changes lives. It impacts not only individuals, but couples. I hear day after day that people feel better, marriages are better, people lose fat, they are more productive at work and so on. It is great to help people and make a difference!
Who are some of your medical “heroes”?
My father, Kaissar Ibrahim, MD, was an immigrant from the Middle East, he spoke three languages and was educated in France. He came to America and became a cardiac surgeon in the late '50s/early '60s, which was not the easiest time for a foreign medical doctor to become successful in this country. He was such a hard worker and set an amazing example for me.
David Sabiston, MD, was Chairman of Surgery at Duke when I was there. There were days when I was on call that I cursed his name, but he set a great example for me. He understood a good balance of when you work you work, but when you are off you are off. If he asked for input, he expected you to be able to back up what you say and know your stuff. He was a great role model for me during an influential season of my life.
If you could offer any advice to younger physicians … what would it be?
It’s called a “medical practice” for a reason. Try something a little bit differently, and look for better outcomes. Don’t just follow rote protocols and programs. Be innovative, and think outside the box. That is how innovations happen. That’s how discoveries are made!
Getting to Know the Doc:
Tell us about your family.
I have three grown children that were all born close together and early on when I was in residency. My daughter Taylor is 28 and is in medical school at Campbell University in North Carolina, and is finishing up medical school soon. My daughter Khoury is 27 and is married. She is a data scientist in San Francisco. My son, George Philip, works with ING in their banking division in New York. They are all fantastic!
What are some movies you really enjoyed?
The range for me is from Borne Identity to stupid comedy like Animal House.
What book have you enjoyed recently?
What amazing adventures have you been on?
My kids and I travel all the time. I love to sail! I captain the boat, and my kids are the crew. We have sailed all over the Caribbean and Central America, Greece and Spain. We took an exciting trip to the Middle East in recent years. We also love to go skiing! Park City and Deer Valley and surrounding areas are at the top of our list.
Favorite Restaurants in Nashville?
The Southern and Skulls Rainbow Room in Printer's Alley
Among your friends, what are you best known for?
Dependability, loyalty, straight-talking.