New vascular diseases physician at MVHS: Becoming a doctor was ‘in the cards for a long time’
By Barbara Pierce
Q: How did you become interested in becoming a physician?
A: My mother recently found a mimeographed flyer from my fourth-grade awards ceremony. It had a quote from my fourth-grade self about growing up to be a doctor. So, I think that it’s been in the cards for a long time.
Q: How did you choose to become a vascular surgeon?
A: Vascular surgery is very immediate and incredibly vital. What’s more important than blood flow?
Q: As a vascular surgeon, how would you describe what you do?
A: A vascular surgeon treats diseases of the blood vessels of the body. This includes the arteries that carry blood away from the heart, and the veins that carry blood back toward the heart. We do this in many ways, including traditional open surgery, as well as minimally invasive techniques that employ wires, catheters, balloons and stents.
Q: What do you find is most rewarding for you about being a physician?
A: The most rewarding part is that I’m able to help people who really need it. People come in to see me really sick and when they come back, they’re transformed. I’m allowed to be in a very privileged position in peoples’ lives, hopefully in a way that I can fix things for them.
For example, we treated a patient who had beaten two different kinds of cancer — ovarian and bone — which was very inspiring. However, she needed a stent in an artery in her pelvis because of the radiation treatment that she received. Over time, the stent became infected. This required a permanent IV and long-term antibiotics. Despite that, she occasionally got flare-ups, when she would need to be hospitalized, often in the ICU. We performed an operation to very carefully re-enter the area where she previously had surgery and radiation. We removed the stent and replaced it with a biologic bypass which is much more resistant to infection.
Postoperatively, she did incredibly well. She no longer needs constant antibiotics, and is able to live her life without the ever-present worry and fear that she will be hospitalized again. It’s a great feeling to be able to help her with that.
Q: What areas of your practice are you especially drawn to and why?
A: I truly like all aspects of vascular surgery. Open vascular surgery can run the gamut from small, ambulatory day-procedures like fistula creations for dialysis, to operations that take hours, such as aortic bypass procedures. Additionally, about half of a vascular surgery practice involves endovascular procedures to open arteries and veins or to treat aneurysms using catheters and stents.
The minimally invasive nature of this procedure allows patients to be treated and recover faster. Sometimes, this work can be like a great puzzle. And we can’t forget seeing patients! I love to sit down and help people to understand their disease process by drawing pictures and explaining what is going on in ways that they can easily understand. If a patient feels connected to and involved with their own health, I believe that we end up with better outcomes.
Q: Do you do more than surgical procedures?
A: Vascular surgeons are also trained to read the ultrasound studies that we order so that we can look at the arteries and veins. I have an additional certification for this purpose.
Q: How do I know if I need to see a vascular surgeon?
A: For arterial occlusive disease of the legs, the first symptom that people notice is cramping in their thighs or calves with walking that is relieved with rest. Without treatment, this can progress to pain, even when resting, that can wake them up at night. Some can even develop wounds on their feet and toes that do not heal.
Venous disease shows up with swelling in the legs with or without painful varicose veins. Over time, the skin on the legs will change, and people can develop painful difficult wounds on their ankles and legs. Preventative treatment for both of these conditions is key.
Aneurysms, or dilations, of the arteries are often found in tobacco users. These can be found with a simple screening ultrasound that is offered to current or former smokers when they turn 65 years old.
We also treat disease of the carotid arteries in the neck, which is important in stroke prevention. Patients with a history of risk factors, including diabetes mellitus or high blood pressure, will often be checked for disease in these arteries and may be referred to a vascular surgeon.
Q: What achievement or contribution are you most proud of?
A: I just try every day to do my best, work my hardest and treat everyone as I would like to be treated.
Q: How do you find living in the Mohawk Valley area?
A: I grew up in West Carthage, New York. The Mohawk Valley is a beautiful place. It’s close to home, and home is very important to me.
Q: What else would you like us to know about you?
A: I’m looking forward to building a practice and living a full life here in the Mohawk Valley!
Birth year: 1976
Birth place: Carthage, New York
Current residence: Utica
Education: Medical degree, residency in general surgery and fellowship training in vascular surgery at the State University of New York, University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in Buffalo, New York. Also completed fellowship training in thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts
Affiliations: Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare, St. Elizabeth Medical Center
Personal: Single. No human children; adoptive mother to a golden doodle puppy
Hobbies: “I enjoy indoor gardening. During COVID, I learned how to make French macarons and I love experimenting with new flavors with the help of my coworkers”
In the News
Physician Danielle Thesier recently joined the Mohawk Valley Health System Medical Group Vascular Surgery group in New Hartford. She specializes in the treatment of conditions of the blood vessels and lymph system (vascular diseases) as well as performing surgical procedures that involve the heart or the blood vessels.