What is your name, title, and job position?
Allison A. Aka, MD – Assistant Professor
Colon and Rectal Surgery
In what clinical settings do you work?
Academic Hospital – Outpatient and Inpatient
VA Hospital - Outpatient and Inpatient
What makes your job so special?
I manage both benign and malignant pathologies using a broad range of modalities, including open, laparoscopic, and robotic approaches. I also perform endoscopies. I perform both major and minor procedures/surgeries. I also deal with very specific problems, including inflammatory bowel disease, pelvic floor dysfunction, colon and rectal cancers, complex anorectal issues, that are not necessarily addressed by general surgeons.
What is a typical day and week in your practice?
On clinic days, I will see a variety of patients for both benign and malignant conditions. A lot of patient education and counseling is done to help the patients understand their condition and how to best manage it.
On OR days, depending on start times and procedure, I can either have 1-2 major cases that take all day, or 5-6 shorter outpatient procedures. I also perform endoscopies sometimes in the outpatient GI lab.
Most rewarding aspect of your specialty?
Helping patients. That does not always mean I can cure them of a condition they might have, but I can help them understand and improve their quality of life.
Most challenging aspect of your specialty?
There are times I cannot help patients or cure them. Delivering difficult news is one of the toughest parts of this job. But I can at least be there for them, support them, and help them as best I can.
Any unique challenges faced in your specialty?
There are always new ways to address issues, constant improvements in our field. It is our job to stay up-to-date so we can best take care of our patients.
What is the lifestyle (work-life balance) of a physician in your specialty?
Colorectal surgery does not have as many surgical emergencies, as say Acute Care Surgery or Vascular Surgery, allowing for better work-life balance relatively speaking. But there are still long days. Your work does not end when you leave the hospital, regardless of your specialty. There are always patient phone calls/messages you have to return, results to look up, communication that needs to happen, in addition to your scheduled work load.
Did you do any additional fellowship training after and why?
After completing 6 years of general surgery residency, I then went on to complete a 1 year colon and rectal surgery fellowship. I wanted to specialize. When people hear “Colorectal Surgery,” they just assume I do hemorrhoids and constipation. But I manage very complex patients, such as inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancers. These conditions require up-to-date information, multidisciplinary teams, and complex surgeries. I can offer patients multiple modalities to best treat their conditions. Treatment of rectal cancer, for example, is constantly evolving and can be some of the most difficult surgeries. I wanted to have that extra training so I can better help my patients.
Why did you choose to work at Loma Linda University Health?
Multiple reasons brought me to LLUH. I was born and raised in this area and want to give back to the community I grew up in. I went to medical school at LLU and wanted to one day come back and help teach the next generations of physicians. I wanted to be in an institute where the focus was not just on the physical and mental aspects for patients, but also their spiritual well-being. And I am lucky that I also have a lot of family in the area, which makes my work-life balance even better.