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Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Bariatric Surgeon Dr. Kulmeet Sandhu

Kulmeet Sandhu, MD, Bariatric Surgeon at Cedars-Sinai.

Meet Dr. Kulmeet Sandhu, a bariatric surgeon, avid reader and international adventure-trekker. She's also an enthusiastic and passionate educator who studied at Cedars-Sinai and is now paying it forward by training the next generation of surgeons.

"Not only do I get to operate on, say, a patient with gastric cancer, but I also get to do bariatric surgery, which is lifesaving and life-changing for so many people."

What made you choose to specialize in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery?

Dr. Kulmeet Sandhu: I think what drew me to minimally invasive and bariatric surgery was the technology part of it: I love using my hands and it gave me more toys to play with! It was also a way to do a number of different things: Not only do I get to operate on, say, a patient with gastric cancer, but I also get to do bariatric surgery, which is lifesaving and life-changing for so many people.

How does your role bring you joy?

KS: One of the main reasons I chose this career was to teach. I've always wanted to be a teacher, and I've been teaching in one way or another since high school! I was a tutor in college, and then I did a year with AmeriCorps in D.C. where I worked for a program teaching children in middle school about drugs, alcohol and HIV. Teaching medical students and residents is really a continuation of that.

That's another reason why I love being in the operating room so much: You get to see this amazing progression. When residents first come in, they're just learning how to use their hands. And by the time they finish, it's so impressive. You witness them becoming surgeons right before your eyes—you see them "getting it." That's a big part of the daily joy of being a doctor for me.

Who have been your best teachers?

KS: I've had so many good teachers, but some of the best teachers I've had have been here at Cedars-Sinai during my minimally invasive surgery fellowship. Dr. Miguel Burch, Dr. Scott Cunneen, Dr. Ed Phillips and Dr. Shirin Towfigh were wonderful mentors to me.

What made them great mentors?

KS: They didn't push me along—they helped me grow. They were really supportive and helped me discover what kind of surgeon I wanted to be. They didn't just show me how to do surgery: They modeled how to interact with patients, how to be a good doctor.

I learned from them how to listen to your patients, how to try to figure out what it is that they need. This is the kind of thing you can't really learn in school. You have to watch how people interact with others. That's how you learn.

What would you like to do if you weren't a surgeon?

KS: Honestly, now that I do this, I can't imagine doing anything else! OK, maybe I would be an interior decorator. Or I would own a bookshop. I love to read. If I have a few minutes between cases, I'll read a book or a graphic novel on my phone. This is how I relax after a heavy day. I'm pretty boring. Most of the time I'm at home reading a book and drinking tea or watching TV!

Wait, didn't you trek some pretty impressive summits?

KS: Yes, Machu Picchu and Mt. Kilimanjaro. I do like to get out and hike—and mix in travel to explore different cultures. I've been on every continent except Antarctica, so that's on my bucket list!