Alumnus shares views on small-town surgical practice

Dominic Formaro, center, with Michael Metts and David Plundo.
Dominic Formaro, center, with Michael Metts and David Plundo, D.O.’85, M.P.H.’11, FACOFP, FAODME, associate dean of medical education and external affairs, College of Osteopathic Medicine.

When Dominic Formaro Jr., D.O.’05, FACOS, spoke on campus last November, he laughed that the reason students came to the Ruza Lecture Hall was for the free pizza. The real reasons, however, were students wanted his insights on practicing as a general surgeon, working in a small town or doing both.

“What I love, love, love about my job is that I get to treat a broad spectrum of surgical conditions,” he told the audience. “If I was in a larger area, certain surgeries I get to do would go to subspecialists.”

One of two general surgeons at Skill Medical Center in Newton, IA, Formaro was invited to campus by Michael Metts, D.O.’96, FAAP, FACOP, chair and associate professor of specialty medicine, to present for that department’s Careers in Medicine Program. Formaro told students he’d originally thought he would go into family practice and osteopathic manual treatment. “It’s only in rotations you finally get exposure to the real world of medicine and find out what people do every day. You find out what you want to do and what you absolutely do not want to do,” he said. “Surgery really spoke to me.”

Formaro walked students through his treatment of and surgery on a recent patient with an extremely distended segment of the sigmoid colon. He then offered advice on landing a general surgery residency, from a broad perspective — “Like other residencies, work hard every day; have good letters of recommendation; at least seem interested” — to a more specific one — “Take advantage of surgical opportunities in nonsurgical rotations; for example, if a laceration comes into the ER, ask if you can watch.”

Formaro also shared some of the not-so-fun aspects of being a general surgeon in a small town. “I take call 15 days a month. That means I don’t get to turn off my phone. So as far as lifestyle goes, I’ve missed some of my kids’ birthdays and family dinners,” he said. “You need to consider carefully what your lifestyle goals are and who’s your mate — is that person up for that lifestyle? It’s a balance.”

Still, Formaro knows he’s where he wants to be. “I like that I know I’m going to get an outcome [with each patient] within 24 hours. I don’t know whether it will be good or bad, but I’ll have it,” he said. “Plus surgery is just fun.”

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