Life as a CMKI Fellow at Kleinert Kutz

Posted by on Sep 13, 2022 in Fellowship, Our Fellows | 0 comments

Salman Shiraz, MD

By Salman Shiraz, MD, CMKI Senior Fellow

I had been to the United States several times before my fellowship opportunity at the Christine M. Kleinert Institute (CMKI), but as a vacationing tourist. With my camera hanging around my neck, I traveled across the U.S. east coast. But moving to the U.S. for a whole year as a clinical fellow has allowed me to experience the U.S. as never before. For one thing, it would be my first time in the American Mid-West. I never expected the quaint little city of Louisville to surprise me in so many ways. The natural beauty had me captivated, and so had the electronic patient data input system at the hospital, but not as pleasantly as the trees and shrubs of the Midwest landscape though. (Ha, ha!)

Even after having worked almost a decade at a technologically advanced, tertiary care institute, my first day on call as a CMKI Fellow reminded me of my younger self on my first day at school after a long summer break. Everything seemed so unfamiliar. I found myself compl

etely lost in the ER and the computers seemed like an alien tech from metaverse! It was as if someone had put “Goofy” into scrubs and set him off on a field trip to a hospital. My senior colleagues were a great help and looked out for the ‘Goofy in scrubs’ throughout the day. A few days of useful guidance and I was set. Come next call shift, yours truly pirouetted around the ER and guided other colleagues, logging in and out of the systems and making prescriptions.

The COVID 19 pandemic was at its peak when I joined CMKI as a fellow. With constant Covid testing, I had my nasopharynx brutally invaded almost a dozen times by the time I had reached town. I literally breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of “no more swabs” when I landed in Louisville. But the pandemic had significantly changed many aspects of our lives and workspaces alike. The CMKI morning meetings that were previously conducted in person were now an online affair. Having attended these meetings and lectures during my first Louisville winters wrapped in my blanket, sipping on my coffee as the temperatures plummeted sub-zero, I was not disappointed that these were now online. In my defense, I came to Louisville from one of the hottest parts of the world and these meetings start each morning at 6 AM! Despite the early nature of these sessions, occasionally we are provided some comic relief when in the thick of an intricate surgical technique under discussion, an attending or a fellow will share a candid comment to make it fun.

Pandemic or not, being a doctor means you must attend to your patients; working from home is not an option. Luckily, Kleinert Kutz sees patients from many neighboring states (with some patients traveling from afar) which really gives an edge to trainees such as myself. The volume and variation of patients that I have seen here is unmatched by any other institute where I have worked. The difference these clinics have made to my performance is manifested in my technique as a surgeon and my practice as a clinician.  I remember one of my professors from medical school

saying, “You don’t become a good surgeon by knowing how to operate, but by knowing when not to operate.” The diverse turnout of cases in the Kleinert Kutz clinics has improved my acumen in distinguishing cases which need surgical attention from those that can be treated conservatively.

Another skill that being a CMKI Fellow has furnished is the ability to navigate swiftly between different locations in the shortest possible time. You will know what I mean the day you park in New Albany to find out you were supposed to be at Baptist Health! OOPS!

Jokes aside, I love the environment of our clinics. We have our fun times while celebrating and decorating the clinics with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas décor.

Halloween 2021, Christina (Former CMKI Fellowship Coordinator) dressed up as Wonder Woman poses next to me dressed up as Wonder Surgeon.


A surgeon’s life revolves around operating rooms. No matter what, the pleasure and satisfaction it brings cannot be articulated in words. Holding a surgical knife and knowing that making that incision and what you are about to do can make such a difference to the patient is exhilarating.

You don’t know an operating room until you are inside one. Lights, scalpel, ACTION! The OR is brimming with immense energy, one feels like a hyper excited electron in its outermost shell! The day passes by in a blink. The working environment is candid and professional at the same time. We pull off some of the most complicated procedures while sharing a quip or two.  Our attendings also lighten up the mood and we get to see their fun side. You feel accomplished once you do a difficult revascularization or nerve repair case on your own with your attending supervising.

The Emergency Room is no different. The adrenaline rush during a call in the ER keeps you sprinting tirelessly. Although no one likes being called in the middle of the night for a consult – when duty calls you don’t stall. Once you set foot in a busy ER, the 12-hour long shift passes by in a snap. There are times when you go without a sip of water. Such is the life of a surgeon.  You need steady hands, flexible metabolism, and a sturdy bladder. If you have these, you will make an accomplished surgeon, or at least the one who can survive until the end of a long surgery!

A candid moment during a surgery.


With covid restrictions gradually lifting, making way for in-person interactions, we’ve had several opportunities to mingle socially with other fellow trainees who come from different backgrounds. These gatherings have been nothing short of fun as we enjoy delicacies at local restaurants. The training workshops provide an excellent opportunity to connect with peers through technical workshops held in different venues across the U.S.  It is learning, connectivity and the joy of exploring new places all packed in one. Learning the U.S. history and seeing the national monuments and historic buildings with sight-seeing is a joy beyond measure!

Sharing a light moment with two of my CMKI colleagues


Now in my second year at the CMKI as a senior fellow, I feel more confident as a hand surgeon, out there in the ER looking for a ‘scrubbed Goofy’ on a first call; or pulling off a revascularization all on my own; finally making it to New Albany on a New Albany day; and making sure I am a better surgeon with every coming day.  I am not sure of where I go from here, but I take pleasure in relishing every moment I spend at CMKI working with some of the top hand specialist in the country at Kleinert Kutz.

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