Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Abhijit S. Pathak
Abhijit S. Pathak, MD ’91, MSE, FACS, FCCM, Professor of Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, is a humble and dedicated physician who will tell you right up front that he has a hard time talking about himself. He prefers instead to “just sort of do things.”
And it is his extraordinary work — just doing things — over two decades at the medical school, Temple University Hospital, and nationally for the American Board of Surgery that has earned him the deep admiration of his colleagues, students, and staff. In April, Dr. Pathak was recognized with the 2022 Honored Professor Award at the Alumni Awards dinner held during Reunion Weekend.
In announcing the award, Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, Interim Dean of the Katz School of Medicine, said it recognized Dr. Pathak as “an essential educational and clinical leader at Temple” who has modeled excellence for more than 20 years.
The prestigious award is given annually to “a professor whose teaching style and character exemplify the knowledge and values that Temple strives to instill.”
Asked to describe that signature style of practicing Temple medicine, Dr. Pathak recently summed it up this way: “The goal is to take care of the patients. That’s everyone’s goal, to work together to achieve that outcome. We’re talking about house staff, nurses, doctors, and ancillary staff.”
Dr. Pathak wears many hats at Temple, and teaching is central to all that he does.
As a Professor of Surgery, the most important lesson he teaches medical students is that they need to understand the “why” behind everything they see. “The lesson is to always understand the pathophysiology behind the disease process,” he said. “From that, I think you never forget how to manage or treat a condition.”
In teaching medical students and residents, he seeks to identify and bring out their strengths, and help them overcome their challenges. The medical students say they appreciate the way he values them as key members of the patient-care team.
In addition to teaching and practicing general surgery, Dr. Pathak, serves as Director of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Temple University Hospital, which manages care for surgery and trauma patients.
Dr. Pathak also serves as Program Director for Temple’s one-year Surgical Critical Care Fellowship. In selecting fellows, beyond the academic qualifications, the program is looking for candidates who value the camaraderie among the staff and strong emphasis on patient care that reverberate throughout the hospital.
“When the applicants ask me what we are looking for, the first thing I always say is, ‘You have to be nice.’ The qualities that have been fostered here in the house staff [residents and fellows] is that we’re a big Temple family and our goal is patient care. Our goal is working well with each other and taking care of each other. It can get busy.”
Over the years, residents and fellows have praised Dr. Pathak’s methodical, nuanced, decisive approach to clinical decision-making.
He chairs the Critical Care Committee and the Organ Donation Council at the hospital and directs the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course, among other roles. On the national level, he has served for nearly nine years as an associate examiner for the certifying examination for the American Board of Surgery. He has also been involved as an examination consultant for the Board, helping to write questions for the Surgical Critical Care continuous certifying exam.
He has been published in leading journals and has authored chapters in many surgical textbooks.
Dr. Pathak grew up in West Chester, PA., and received a Bachelor of Science degree while majoring in pre-medicine at The Pennsylvania State University. He said he was drawn to a career in medicine because of his deep interest in science and a desire to help people.
After graduating from Temple’s medical school, he completed his General Surgery Residency at Temple University Hospital and served as a Research Fellow in the Division of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. He then completed a Fellowship in Trauma/Surgical Critical Care at the University of Maryland and accepted a post at the Yale School of Medicine. In 1999, Temple’s medical school invited him to return as a member of the faculty.
When asked what is special about Temple that kept him at the School for more than 20 years, he does not hesitate in his reply.
“It’s the people here,” he said. “It’s working not only with my faculty colleagues, but also working with the residents, students, the nursing staff and the ancillary staff.”
And from all accounts, those same people regard this excellent professional as an invaluable member of a caring, collaborative team. But you’ll never hear that from him.