Blending Compassion and Skill

by Lisa Moody Breslin, photography by Walter P. Calahan

Dr. Zaher Srour moved his practice from Manhattan, NY to the Hanover-York area in 2007 to have a better quality of life with his family. An award-winning doctor for his compassion and for his rapport with his patients, Srour is involved in multiple humanitarian activities with United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and he is the CEO of Human Development Organization (HDO).

Srour finished his medical school and residency training in otolaryngology- head & neck surgery, he continued his training with a fellowship training in facial plastic & reconstructive surgery and a second fellowship training in skull base surgery at Columbia University, New York. He is the only Fellowship trained ENT physician in the area, and one of the few double fellowship trained ENT physicians nationwide.

What thrills you the most about your job in Hanover? The reward is always about outcome. Most of our work is to improve patients’ quality of life, whether it is related to chronic allergies and sinus problems with chronic headaches or snoring and sleep apnea with fatigue and an upset wife. There is a great reward by helping those patients and their lifestyle when you hear a genuine thank you from them. But the most thrilling reward is when what you do saves lives, in emergency rooms, day-to-day work in the office or medical missions.

What are two of your most rewarding experiences (professionally) beyond Hanover? Medical missions are by far the most rewarding. When you can make so much difference in people’s life in a very short time, the appreciation look on their faces transcends all languages and social differences. For me, there is no greater reward than this.

The second most rewarding experiences are my travels to different continents to share different views on patient care and science with other colleagues. We always think that we are more advanced in medical care than other continents, but my experiences in Europe, Africa and Asia has challenged my thinking and attitude towards many issues. It is very important to keep an open mind. Different cultures can bring humanity a wealth of knowledge.

The challenges within those rewarding experiences? And how did you overcome those challenges? For medical missions the logistics are the most difficult part. You might think that bringing a vaccine to Africa is a simple matter with a cooler and some ice. It gets really complicated when you know about the need to get a live vaccine through airports, customs, on site refrigeration, electrical generator, fuel, electrician, transportation, fences and security to protect your location. This all adds to the complexity of the mission and to the cost. If the mission involves surgical care in a conflict zone, the complexity of the mission took a tremendous leap. That is why we try to work under the umbrella of international organizations with collaborative efforts.

One of my biggest challenges was when I had to operate on my own child. The most difficult part of it was seeing him go under anesthesia.

People often read about humanitarian missions and wonder if they too could help. What advice would you offer to someone who is on the fence about the decision? In my experience, there is no “too little” or “too much” help. Every effort counts, from a thought or a prayer all the way to donation and hands on work. Humanitarian work starts with your family and neighbors, to give them a hand when you can, like shoveling the snow of your elderly neighbor’s driveway is a great act of humanity and care.

Next level is donation; you can donate time, effort, experience, money or simply being an organ donor. Being an organ donor is a tremendous way to keep on giving even after you cease to exist.

This is to be followed by local hands on experience (like meals on wheels) to move later to international missions. I believe in this stepladder approach so you don’t get overwhelmed.

During the last few years, what are two of your most rewarding experiences personally? My family is the center of my life. Seeing my family grow and thrive is the ultimate pleasure. We have grown our family over 10 years to have 5 children. It has been challenging (mostly for my wife) and rewarding on so many levels.

In 2016, my not for profit organization HDO, broke ground to develop an orphanage for Syrian children in Lebanon. This has been in the works for many years and will probably continue for many others. Getting the project going while being 10,000 miles away has been challenging, yet rewarding to see how many people are offering help.

What keeps you up at night? Nothing keeps me up at night; the best sleeping helper is a clear conscious. But, I do worry about the future. My family, my career and what healthcare reform means for a single doctor that is trying to make it between immense organizations that marginalize the small medical practices.

After you have been away for quite some time – what do you find that you appreciate most? My family (My wife Maria and my 5 kids) is the joy of my life. Without them life has no meaning. Also, my second family at work, of a great team of 25 employees, that I have built over the past 11 years, of nurses, billers, receptionists and managers. That makes a long difficult day better perceived when you are surrounded by happy, loving people. I can’t thank them enough.

In the last five years, what have been the most exciting medical breakthroughs that you have been able to share in Hanover or in distant lands? In office balloon sinus procedure has been the most exciting and game changer by far. Where now we can address difficult sinus cases with a minimally invasive procedure, in office, without hospital surgery, nose packing or extensive recovery. For years, lots of patient have been living with their chronic sinus issue because of concerns with surgery and now with a few minutes procedure we can reverse the chronic disease and help them breath, sleep and smell better without constant need for nasal prays and antibiotics.

Please share the range of hours you work during a typical workweek in Hanover? While working on a humanitarian mission? I am a workaholic; I typically bypass 60 hours of work a week, sometimes reaches 80 hours when I am on call for the ER. Currently I dedicate about 5 hours a week for my non-for-profit organization HDO (Human Development Organization). Almost every year, I dedicate
2-4 weeks of international humanitarian work.

How do you revive yourself? I am a gardener in spring, a hiker in the summer, a hunter in fall and a movie buff in winter. But I enjoy my garden the most. There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing my kids helping with the garden, rushing in the morning to get a ripe strawberry, climbing a tree for a pear.

What or who inspires you the most? My parents, they went through great tribulations in life, yet they managed to raise and educate 3 boys to become doctors, with a good moral and emotional compass. Their secret: love, discipline and open dialogue.

Favorite movies, music, and or foods? My children are into Harry Potter and classical music since they play piano. Slowly, I got into it too. As a family we love sushi, but I consider myself a cheesecake connoisseur.

What brought you to Hanover? After I had finished Medical school, residency program in ENT and 2 fellowship training programs in Columbia University in New York, I was offered to stay in Columbia Univ. as an associate professor and vice chairman for skull base surgery. At that time, I had my first child. I had seen myself spending every minute of the day at work. Although my job was extremely gratifying on many levels, I have seen my colleagues with very high rate of divorce and separated from their kid’s life. I did not want that for my family. So I have decided to turn down the offer and relocate to more family oriented area (Hanover).

What keeps you here? Currently, we are rooted in Hanover. This is home for me and my family. Over the years, we have developed a large network of friends that we value highly. In addition, some of my patients have been in my practice for the past 11 years. When you care for someone for that long they become more of a friend than patient. For that reason, it is extremely hard for me to be anywhere else.

Luckily, we work in a great environment. We have one of the best networks of physicians and hospitals, with great access to up-to-date technology and facilities. Our patients are educated about their health; they are very respectful of what we offer them.

Author: HM

Share This Post On