Military service revealed the value of teamwork
For general surgeon Owen R. Kieran, DO, a traumatic event early in his career altered his path forward. In 2014, Kieran was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, when the base suffered its second mass shooting in five years.
As a staff surgeon at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Kieran had just come home from a shift and was sitting down to eat dinner when he got the call to turn around.
"I was in disbelief," he recalled. "I rushed back in, not knowing what was going on or even where the shooter was. Half of me was scared out of my mind, while the other half was calm, knowing what I needed to do as a physician."
Kieran operated on two of the victims, one of whom was ultimately transferred to another facility. Both survived, but the experience left a lasting mark on Kieran.
While he had recently finished a general surgery residency at St. Barnabas Hospital, a busy Level II trauma center in the South Bronx of New York City, this was his first real-life active shooter scenario. It ended in 14 injuries and four deaths, including the gunman.
"Our team came together that day, and it reinforced for me that wherever you work, you need to have a strong, cohesive team," he said. "When situations like that occur, it's critical that everyone is in the same frame of mind."
From that day forward, Kieran sought out environments where he could operate as part of a unified team. While at Fort Hood, he completed a short tour as a forward-deployed Army surgeon in Eastern Afghanistan, where he continued to hone his surgical skills and earned several additional advanced trauma certifications.
While Kieran valued the lessons he learned in the military, he wanted a more settled lifestyle for his wife, a former nurse, and school-aged son and daughter. After leaving the Army, he served as a staff surgeon in Southern Georgia, obtaining certification on the da Vinci® robotic surgical system.
Making an Impact from the Ground up
In 2017, Kieran joined Poinciana Medical Center, an HCA Healthcare hospital near the border of Osceola and Polk counties.
"We'd always liked Florida and have family in the area and thought we might retire here, so when this job opened up, I thought it was a great opportunity to make an impact from the ground up," he said. "It was a new hospital, and the community needed a surgeon. We've been building this program ever since."
About half of his procedures are elective, outpatient surgeries, such as hernia repair and treatment of skin lesions. Kieran also has a special interest in treating women's health issues, because his wife's grandmother was a breast cancer survivor, and he has six sisters and four nieces. His practice offers genetic testing for breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, as well as removal of breast tumors.
In addition, Kieran treats a high percentage of emergencies, such as appendicitis, organ obstructions and gallbladder disease.
"Compared with some other communities, we typically see a much higher acute surgical blend, as opposed to elective surgery," he said.
About half the patients Kieran sees in the hospital have surgical complications related to uncontrolled diabetes, such as abscesses, cellulitis and gangrenous wounds.
"Many patients don't realize that diabetes is a significant disease, and only when they have a serious complication do they realize they were diabetic," Kieran notes.
Some patients also postpone seeking treatment because they are underinsured or self-payers. As a result, their conditions often worsen and require multiple surgeries.
Working as a Cohesive Team
As he did in the military, Kieran sees himself as part of a cohesive team working toward the same outcome. He works closely with hospitalists and primary care providers to treat patients, particularly those with comorbidities.
"They manage the medical issues, which allows me to focus on surgical needs of our patients," he explains. "After surgery, I stay on board to manage any surgical issues, while Dr. Zakaria Razick and his team of specialized hospitalists takes care of ongoing needs for our patients, like adjusting insulin and blood pressure medications."
Envisioning a solution to a complicated challenge is an inborn trait for Kieran. Once an aspiring architect, he realized that architecture was more of a passion for him than a lifelong vocation, so he switched tracks to medicine. While at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Maine, he discovered his interest in surgery, in part because of the ability to rapidly change a patient's life.
"I like to see the immediate results we can provide," he said. "We directly impact someone's health, right then and there."
In the future, Kieran hopes Poinciana Medical Center's surgical team can further expand its impact. The hospital recently brought on board its first da Vinci robot and offers surgeons with credentials in robotic surgery. Kieran and others are also working to expand women's health screenings, biopsies and breast cancer treatment options.
"As physicians, we want to do as much as we can here in Poinciana, to spare patients from traveling 35 to 40 minutes to Kissimmee, Davenport or Celebration for surgery," he said. "Our goal is bringing all the specialties here and ensuring Poinciana has a well-developed surgical program. I'm proud to say we're making real progress."
Dr. Owen Kieran is a board-certified general surgeon at Poinciana Medical Center who practices at the hospital's affiliated practice, Medical Specialty Group at Poinciana. Medical Specialty Group at Poinciana is located adjacent to Poinciana Medical Center in the Medical Arts building. To learn more about Dr. Kieran, or to schedule an appointment, visit www.SurgeryatPoinciana.com