The Surgeons at Cedar
Local Quality Providers Offer Specialized Care
When it comes to general surgery, due to today’s high-tech instrumentation and advanced technology, procedures such as major abdominal surgery are now replaced with minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques that often reduce pain, accelerate recuperations, and reduce cost without sacrificing good outcomes. Fortunately for patients requiring general surgery in our region, the advances in technology offering these patient benefits can be found right here at Cedar Surgical Associates, P.C. The four physicians of Cedar Surgical specialize in laparoscopic and robotic surgeries of the abdomen, breasts, lungs, head, neck, circulatory system, endocrine system, and digestive system.
Cedar Surgical was founded by Akram Hassanyeh, M.D., F.A.C.S., in Metter, Georgia, in 1988. Named for the street on which the practice was located, and the Cedars of Lebanon, Dr. Hassanyeh’s native country, the practice grew and eventually moved to Statesboro near the old hospital on Grady Street. In 1999, Dr. Hassanyeh was joined by Camille Atallah, M.D., F.A.C.S., and in 2000, the office was relocated to the Medical Office Building at EGRMC. Ten years ago the doctors built a state-of-the art medical office building for their expanding practice and eventually added new partners Jean Claude Schwartz, M.D., and Kenneth Brian Walton, M.D., to the new facility on Bermuda Run Road minutes from the surgical suite at the hospital.
With the transitioning of partners, Atallah and Schwartz, Dr. Hassanyeh and Dr. Walton have added new associates who cover several areas of specialized surgery. Rebecca Spahos, M.D., joined the team a little over three years ago, and last summer Matthew Musielak M.D., became a partner. The benefit of having four general surgeons with varied special interests means for those requiring general surgery it is no longer necessary to travel to larger metropolitan hospitals for procedures that can be performed right here at East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
Each doctor brings a special area of expertise to the practice. Dr. Hassanyeh holds a fellowship in cardiovascular surgery from the Texas Heart Institute. He was instrumental in bringing robotic surgery to EGRMC.
“We are fortunate to be the first hospital in the region to offer robotic surgery of the abdomen,” said Dr. Hassanyeh, “In fact, the first gall bladder operation in Southeast Georgia was performed here, even before the Savannah hospitals.” Dr. Hassanyeh has also operated with the robot in Brunswick, Georgia. In fact, Dr. Hassanyeh is the only robotically trained general surgeon in Southeast Georgia.
Dr. Walton has special interests in vascular disease, lung cancer surgery, and endovascular aortic aneurysm surgery. During a five-year internship and residency in general surgery, he became especially interested in the heart and lungs. He extended his training with a fellowship in cardiovascular/thoracic surgery at the University of Texas.
“The last year of residency, I knew I enjoyed surgeries of the heart and lungs most of all,” he said. Dr. Walton also prefers the variety that general surgery offers.
“I may be doing vascular surgery one day, thoracic one day, and general one day. It is energizing to be able to mix it up going from gall bladder to coronary artery to lung surgery or an appendix,” he said.
Dr. Walton was instrumental in bringing thoracic surgery to EGRMC. “Stent grafting for aortic aneurisms was not done here before,” he said. He also performs lung cancer surgery. “It is very gratifying to remove a tumor and potentially help cure someone of cancer,” he stated.
Dr. Rebecca Spahos grew up in Hampton, Georgia, near Atlanta, the youngest in a family of six children. She became interested in medicine after experiencing the loss of her grandparents to cancer. “That inspired me to help people with cancer,” she said. The only one of the six children who didn’t join the military, Dr. Spahos instead attended the University of Georgia majoring in genetics. She managed a research lab at Emory for two years, and for patient interaction did volunteer work at the hospital.
While on a student mission trip to Mexico, she experienced an epiphany while working with the local children; Dr. Spahos decided she wanted to become a doctor.
“I’m a Christian, and I felt I was called to be where I needed to be,” she said. Back from the mission trip, she applied and was accepted to the Medical College of Georgia. She spent her internship and residency in general surgery at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah.
Dr. Spahos’ special interests include laparoscopic breast and thyroid surgery. She has also had special training in colon resections. In addition, she enjoys working with the robot, especially for surgeries of the abdomen and hernias. One of her goals is to continue working with other area doctors to have a certified Breast Center of Excellence at EGRMC.
“With the Breast Center, we will be able to combine radiation oncology, radiology, surgery, and plastic surgery, all in one place,” she said. To become accredited by the American College of Surgeons, the Breast Center will go through about a two-year process of working with patients and collecting data.
Dr. Matthew Musielak is another surgeon at Cedar Surgical working on creating a Center of Excellence at EGRMC. His focused area is general surgery and bariatric medicine.
After attending medical school at Ross University in the Dominican Republic, he completed his internship at the University of Missouri-Columbia, in Columbia, Missouri, and a did his residency at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Musielak grew up outside of St. Louis excelling in athletics. Through sports like basketball, baseball, soccer and gymnastics, he experienced his share of sports injuries.
“I wanted to do orthopedic surgery since grade school,” he said, “but, I thought it wasn’t graceful enough. I did like the technical aspects of surgery and found general surgery to be more sophisticated. I have always wanted to do surgery.”
He hopes to help create a Bariatric Center of Excellence at the hospital. “We are putting all policies and procedures in place,” he said.
Like the Breast Center, it will take a couple of years to gather patient data and complete the process for certification by the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Musielak also sees patients in Metter and Claxton. “In rural medicine you can be a true general surgeon,” he stated. “We can help to address the needs in those communities as well. We can do some of the cases in the smaller hospitals in those communities and bring the bigger cases to EGRMC. That’s something we hope to have in the future,” he said.
With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, doctors are seeing an increase in rules and paper work required for insurance filings. On February 1, 2016, Dr. Hassanyeh decided to sell Cedar Surgical to EGRMC to take advantage of the added administrative help and the purchasing power a large hospital company has versus a small medical practice.
“I love what I do,” he said, “Sometimes the other things get between the patient and the doctor – government policies, insurance, etc. – Our partnership with EGRMC means that we still get to do the best for the patient. I love the satisfaction of helping my patients.”
“We all want to be able to really help people locally,” Dr. Musielak said. “If we can help people in the community to realize the level and scope of surgical care that we can provide at EGRMC, we can keep them near their homes and their families during recovery, saving them travel time and worry.”
Dr. Spahos agrees, “We’re a small town, we like to take care of our own people,” she said, “We can take time with our patients and usually can have them scheduled for a procedure within 24-48 hours. Sometimes at the bigger hospitals patients wait four to six weeks for surgery. There are advantages to letting us serve you here at the hospital. We are well trained surgeons and we just want our community to know they can experience quality care here. We want them to be healthy.”