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Dr. Mark Strasser – Crazy and Memorable Medical Moments

 In Podcast

 Dr. Mark Strasser is an ear, nose, and throat specialist. He grew up in Prescott, Arizona, and attended the University of Arizona as an undergraduate and for his medical school. Dr. Strasser completed his residency at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to work in New Zealand at the University of Otago. In 2001, Dr. Strasser returned to Arizona to join Prescott ENT and Allergy, where he currently has his practice.

When he’s not working, Dr. Strasser is busy enjoying the great outdoors and spending time with his wife and their two children.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Dr. Mark Strasser’s early medical experience and how he ended up becoming an ear, nose, and throat specialist
  • Dr. Strasser talks about his childhood memories of growing up in Prescott, Arizona 
  • What are Dr. Strasser’s favorite aspects of his job?
  • Dr. Mark Syms and Dr. Strasser discuss some of the most memorable and funny medical moments they’ve experienced
  • Dr. Strasser talks about his ENT role models and shares what he learned from them
  • The people Dr. Strasser acknowledges for his achievements
  • How to get in touch with Dr. Mark Strasser

In this episode…

An ENT medical practitioner gets to see and treat patients with different types of complications related to the ears, nose, and throat. Some of the cases may take a short time to treat, while others may require complicated medical procedures such as surgery. 

Being an ENT specialist, Dr. Mark Strasser has had his fair share of interesting and memorable medical moments. Like many professionals in highly demanding jobs, he’s found a way to work hard, enjoy the rewards of his labor, and laugh at the unpredictable moments that life throws at him. 

Dr. Mark Strasser, an ENT specialist at Prescott ENT and Allergy, is Dr. Mark Syms’ guest in this episode of ListenUp!, where he shares some of the crazy and memorable medical moments he’s experienced over the years. He also talks about what it was like growing up around his father’s ENT practice, how he eventually found his way into the same specialization, and who some of the role models were that he had along the way. 

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by the Arizona Hearing Center.

The Arizona Hearing Center is a cutting-edge hearing care facility providing comprehensive, family-focused care. Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from some sort of hearing loss, more than half of whom are younger than the age of 65. That’s why the team at the Arizona Hearing Center is focused on providing the highest-quality care using innovative technologies and inclusive treatment plans. 

As the Founder of the Arizona Hearing Center, Dr. Mark Syms is passionate about helping patients effectively treat their hearing loss so that they can stay connected with their family and friends and remain independent. He knows first-hand how hearing loss can impact social connection and effective communication. By relying on three core values—empathy, education, and excellence—Dr. Syms and his team of hearing loss experts are transforming the lives of patients. 

So what are you waiting for? Stop missing out on the conversation and start improving your quality of life today!  

To learn more about the Arizona Hearing Center, visit https://www.azhear.com/ or call us at 602-307-9919. We don’t sell hearing aids—we treat your hearing loss.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04 

Welcome to the Listen Up! podcast where we explore hearing loss communication, connections and Health.

Dr. Mark Syms  0:16  

Dr. Mark Syms here, I’m the host of the Listen Up! podcast where I feature top leaders in healthcare. This episode is brought to you by Arizona Hearing Center. I help patients to effectively treat their hearing loss so they can connect better with their family and friends and remain independent. The reason I’m so passionate about helping patients is because I lost my brother Robbie twice, first from his hearing loss from radiation to his brain tumor and then again when he passed away. I only care for ears. I’m the E of ENT. Have performed over 10,000 years surgeries in the past 20 years. I’m the founder of The Arizona Hearing Center and the author of Listen Up. Go to listenuphearing.com or go to azhear.com to contact us with questions or email us for support. Today, I have Dr. Strasser here. He grew up in Prescott and he attended the University of Arizona for both undergraduate medical schools. He completed his ENT residency at University of Cincinnati, he returned to Prescott in 2001 to practice ENT. He’s a great dad, father and colleague. It’s great to have him on Listen Up! Mark, welcome to Listen Up! Thanks for coming along.

Mark Strasser 1:16  

Thank you.

Dr. Mark Syms  1:16  

Sure This is great. So tell me a little bit. I love hearing people’s medical journey, you know, how did you decide to become an EMT and end up practicing in Prescott, Arizona?

Mark Strasser  1:27  

Yeah, so I grew up here and had a father have a father who was an ENT. And so I had obviously intimate knowledge of what that was about. And as a kid, I kind of had a lot of healthcare experiences. Maybe more than the average kid, in part because I had a dad, that was a doc but and I worked in his office, so to speak, I cleaned rooms and did some of the custodial work. And then, at an outpatient surgical center, I did some of the yard work. So I was kind of around at a decent amount. And his friends and colleagues, of course, didn’t necessarily have a goal to be a doctor or even a medical person. He never at all pushed it that the work there was just to earn money because it was frankly, a job that I could easily get. Right. You know, so

Dr. Mark Syms  2:30  

you’re telling me it wasn’t a tough interview.

Mark Strasser  2:33  

It wasn’t a tough interview. Now. There were tough expectations that may have superseded that which other people might have faced. But anyhow, so I also was around the hospital, I had a buddy that was his dad who was a general surgeon and my dad didn’t but his dad had an account in the cafeteria. And so we go eat doughnuts there a lot in our little town hospital, kind of like those little ones. If you’ve ever worked in any of those small town hospitals when you’re a residency or whatever. There’s always some really friendly lady that’s, you know, selling donuts, letting you charge it to your buddies that you turn it to your buddy’s dad’s account. That’s awesome. Course doughnuts and hotdogs and things at a hospital you always kind of laugh at babies. So there was all that and then so went to college and figured it out that that’s what I want to do. Actually, I was going to be at that for a little while and worked in, and worked in one of our local vet clinics. And was kind of the guy that would hold the dog down while they gave him a shot or put him to sleep or whatever, and, and horses too and things like that. But then he got away from the veterinarian part because it just seemed like you could know, it was anything complicated. You just put the animal down. Nowadays, they do like, you know, orthopedic surgery on dogs and frontal lobotomies and dental work and whatever. It’s always amazing how that has evolved. That has evolved.

Dr. Mark Syms  4:07  

You’re doing you’re a big animal.

Mark Strasser  4:09  

All of it. All of it. Yeah, I mean, they didn’t have reptiles very often or anything like that. But yeah, mostly the cats and dogs and the horses. There’s a veterinary dermatologist down the street from my house. Really? Yeah, well, the first like in nasopharyngeal, animal anatomical experience I had was, you know, when you worm a horse, worming a horses, meaning you basically stick an mg to bound them and you pour a bunch of, you know, parasitic medication in their stomach or you shove it in there. So, that was my first experience in checking pregnant animals with big long sleeves, right. Anyways, that was my useful medical experience and then yeah, figured it out. I wanted to be a doctor. After all, and wasn’t necessarily going to be any empty went through the usual process and kind of like pediatric stuff a lot. But didn’t necessarily want to miss seeing kids all day long. So like surgery I went that route and ended up so my dad was from Cincinnati and went to the University of Cincinnati and more importantly, my extended family lived back there. So I went back and hung out with grandma for a month and did one of the external medical student internships and really loved it there. And that’s really how I connected back there. Yeah, that’s great.

Dr. Mark Syms  5:45  

I mean, I always say, you know, look for people who are happy. That’s kind of where I went. And so you know, I’m sure your dad loved what he did, because, you know, we shared patients in common before he retired, and he really loved practicing with patients. So that’s a pretty good model or something to follow.

Mark Strasser  6:00  

Yeah. And he went till he was like, 72. And, you know, that’s a pretty long career. They didn’t want to leave necessarily, but, you know, realize it was about that time. Okay, I hope he’s doing well. Yeah, he is. He’s doing good. That’s good.

Dr. Mark Syms  6:16  

So growing up in Prescott, I’m sure they’re like great stories that come. Tell me like, you know, what a great childhood memory or story outside of, although I have to say the warming is fun.

Mark Strasser  6:28  

Ah, wow, lots of

Dr. Mark Syms  6:31  

great experiences, I may have to sort of be careful as to what stories Well, they can be self indicating that. So you know what to say. And there might be a statute of limitation. So that’s the other thing you have to be careful of.

Mark Strasser  6:43  

All right. Well, you know, one kind of funny thing was, when you do your high school prank, every year, there’s a prank of some sort. At least, that was the tradition here. And there were things like, I remember one group got a VW bug and put it up on top of the dome of our high school basketball arena. That was hard, that’s hard to beat, right. But my buddies and I decided we were going to go, this is kind of lame, but we took a bunch of real estate signs for sale signs out of the yard sale of houses and planted them up, you know, in the yard or the lawn of school. And so there were hundreds of them. And that’s a great thing to occur. Later that night, some local sheriff’s, somehow found out who did this one problem was that my truck or my Scout, which is what I drove back then, had left it in the parking lot. That was brilliant. So they tracked me down, and took me in. And it was actually, you know, those signs are not cheap. So you add them all up, it was felony level theft that I could have been charged with, and they were kind of messing with me a little better,

Dr. Mark Syms  7:57  

they throw me in the slammer, get scared.

Mark Strasser  8:01  

I somehow got out of that. And we returned all the signs, or at least mostly to where we thought they came from. So we’re doing that all the next day and apologizing and yada yada. But anyways, that was a kind of a notable experience among many, and

Dr. Mark Syms  8:16  

that’s one of those ones where it’s like, I’m sure your parents were pleased.

Mark Strasser  8:20  

They were very good. Oh, they’re proud. I don’t have some, you know, compassion. That’s

Dr. Mark Syms  8:25  

awesome. You know, you know, that anyway, the foolishness of youth in that respect, but you know, no harm done. It sounds like a pretty good lesson and a pretty good experience.

Mark Strasser  8:35  

Yeah, I learned our legal system. Is it really? Yeah, like, I shouldn’t become a lawyer. I don’t know. An attorney.

Dr. Mark Syms  8:41  

So I mean, you know, when you grew up in prescot, what was it like as compared to now? I mean, was it a cowboy town and like it is now as much

Mark Strasser  8:48  

yeah, you know, I always laughed at my brother. I remember my brother was a financial guy. And he went to the University of Chicago for Business School. So he did a lot of stuff. He was telling me about one of his essays he wrote. I remember him saying he grew up riding horses since he was knee high to a grasshopper or some sort of silly thing like that back in. I think they bought that. We were not cow people. Obviously as a son of a doctor, but a lot of friends though. The ranchers all the communities went to the same high school so Chino Valley and and Prescott Valley and he humbled barely was there unity, but they all had the same high school Actually, that’s not true. Bradshaw mountain was evolving back then. But local ranch kids were all bused in from all over the place. So there were a lot of Ag sort of, you know, the FFA was certainly bigger, and there’s still a significant representation of those folks and that way of life and I hope to not lose. It is such a major factor, You know, in this community. Yeah. And we have the rodeo that everybody knows about that’s lived around here. And it’s the world’s oldest and if you ever been to it,

Dr. Mark Syms  10:10  

I have been to a rodeo. I haven’t been to the, the one up there, right. But we got

Mark Strasser  10:14  

to go to it. We actually had it last year, with the pandemic thing and, you know, prescot we’ve stood our ground and in ways maybe people would approve or not approve, but, uh, but, but that that whole element is very cool. And a lot of my friends are in that world and we are gentrifying a bit as all communities might, with a lot of folks moving in but, uh, but it’s still a cool element to the legacy in the history of this community. It is, I

Dr. Mark Syms  10:46  

mean, when you drive into precedent you can you can sense the I mean, just the drive rolling through the hills and you know, the going into it, it’s you can tell it’s currently country.

Mark Strasser  10:56  

Yeah, my life is very much outdoors, when I’m not working and our family do all kinds of things outdoors, but yeah, stuff do you guys like to do? Well, you know, I’m mountain biking a lot, that’s my big thing. We hike and go up north, ski here and there. And, um, you know, just get out a lot. The kids play all kinds of sports and, and it’s one of the great things again, comparing it maybe to more urban centers is, for this last year, when we had the pandemic, we were, in a way I did have things shut down, including school and, and we’re able to get out a lot. We weren’t confined to apartments and houses and, and that was huge, mentally and physically. Yeah, there’s

Dr. Mark Syms  11:47  

a lot of open space that’s accessible, which is great.

Mark Strasser  11:50  

Yeah, that’s great.

Dr. Mark Syms  11:52  

Tell me like, you know, what’s your favorite part of your medical day? Like, you know, what, what, what part Did you get to, and don’t tell me, it’s using your health records, please.

Mark Strasser  12:02  

Um, my medical day, well, I would say, a great day, is going to the outpatient surgical center, and doing procedures that help people and working with awesome people that like what they do, and are motivated to do a good job, we really have just the greatest surgical center, there is a great staff at my office to and, and emphasis on, you know, the patient experience more than anything. But just that that’s a fun day. Perhaps if I don’t have a full day, I’ll go back to the office. But you know, you know, as well as I the balance of surgery and, and non surgical medical is one of the great attractions of our specialty,

Dr. Mark Syms  12:54  

direct and long term relationships with some and short term, you know, solve their problem with others. It’s great. I love it.

Mark Strasser  13:01  

Absolutely. And, you know, just just using your hands to make people feel better. It’s very rewarding. Kenya can’t really beat it.

Dr. Mark Syms  13:12  

Yeah, no, I agree. I agree. So, so like, you know, what’s your most memorable medical moment, so hopefully it wasn’t stealing real estate signs as a physician.

Mark Strasser  13:22  

Now, I kind of gave that up and went through a 12 step program for that. But a medical moment, most memorable medical moment. Yeah. Gosh, there’s a lot um, again, some of them get kind of crazy. Um I’ll say one of the fun How about one of the funniest

Dr. Mark Syms  13:43  

Yeah, that’s a good one. Yeah.

Mark Strasser  13:47  

The funniest was also in medical school. There was a patient. She was a very heavy lady. She was morbidly obese and she was in an ICU and she had multiple medical problems and she had a fever to septic and was of unknown origin unknown source. And as the scan I was a CAT scan that was done of her whole body and as the medical student was trying to be the first guy to get the results and did get them and there was a mass there was a mass that was found on an unexpected mass. Let’s say in her torso in her chest area, and so I brought that information. The ICU nurse and I were the first so we we did the exam and we actually found some old food tucked into some crevice in her body and it was cellulitis that she

Dr. Mark Syms  14:49  

made man, that’s a shame

Mark Strasser  14:51  

locked into a little fold in there. That was a pretty eye not funny for the patient. But unbelievable. He did get better. We removed the offense. Food articulate that was a very memorable experience among many others as you know, there’s a lot of those funny things that happened. You know, somebody says what we say when we pick a guy with a key fob in his mastoid

Dr. Mark Syms  15:16  

what a car key fob somebody had stabbed him in his car. He came in walking you know with like the key fobs sticking out of his head.

Mark Strasser  15:24  

It was sticking out like kind of like a baja

Dr. Mark Syms  15:27  

right but but you know, you could I was wondering like, could I open and close his car?

Mark Strasser  15:33  

That’s amazing. Actually. One other one I thought of is a young man that a little eight to 10 year old fell off his bunk bed. This was just crazy. This is just an odd story where a fishing pole enters orbit and went into his cavernous sinus, but luckily did no damage and so he has this broken fishing rod sticking out of his orbit. And so we took him to the O r, and everybody’s holding their breath in the basket wondering what’s going to happen when you take it out. Right? It took it down. There’s

Dr. Mark Syms  16:02  

nothing it’s the same with the key fobs set it up. Got it all prepped Drake, drill ready scaffold crash cart, pull it out. Okay.

Mark Strasser  16:13  

Exactly. That’s wild

Dr. Mark Syms  16:16  

Mine was a bar bar fight gone awry. Yours was obviously a miscasting of a fishing rod.

Mark Strasser  16:22  

Actually, one other very funny experience that I remember this one just took. And again, I’m not naming names, we won’t throw people under the bus. But I remember an anesthesiologist and a surgeon getting into a physical fight. Right. And luckily, it occurred outside of the operating room. So it wasn’t affecting patient care. But that was wild, the guy the anesthesiologist, like six, seven, but real thin, and the other guy was kind of 511 ish and very buff. watching those two. Before the fight, this was what I was a resident and was absolutely astounding. Were they attending? They were both very well known guys. Oh, pony names. They’re probably retired now. Hopefully.

Dr. Mark Syms  17:12  

That’s pretty amazing.

Mark Strasser  17:13  

That was wild. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Syms  17:15  

Those are all good ones. And, you know, laughing is the only response for all this stuff. So it’s like speaking of et like, Who were your auntie role models? And you know, what is some of the advice they gave you as you were?

Mark Strasser  17:29  

Okay, well, getting back to like, serious. So my dad obviously was the first and lasting role model. We all have those folks and training and particularly in residency. You know, I would not want to leave people out in case anybody is listening, everybody’s listening to this. But you know, our chairman guy named Jack Lockman, was just a real gem of a person he was. Everybody loved him. He was internationally known. He was from South Africa and new people all around the world, and just a really nice, pleasant man. And that’s hard to do. And that kind of a high demanding job and to get to that level and be nice. It and you know, and you would, you would totally understand if he was rude at times, but he really never was to anybody. I mean, he was serious, and he would demand it was demanding and, and made us work, but how hard of gold and so, that’s a guy that would be a tremendous role model throughout my life. 

Dr. Mark Syms  18:36  

But there were plenty of others who worked hard and were nice. I mean, those are not. Those aren’t hard concepts, but hard to necessarily sometimes do.

Mark Strasser  18:43  

Right. Hard to sustain. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I say it’s, it’s

Dr. Mark Syms  18:47  

it’s people. I mean, you know, there’s some people who are nice only to people they have to be nice to. It’s really the people who are nice to everybody that matter, right?

Mark Strasser  18:54  

Yeah. And it would be the custodian and it just didn’t matter. It was not fake. Right. And genuine people like that mean, mean a lot to me. I just think that, you know, we only have so many years on this earth and so many relationships and there’s lots of little bits.

Dr. Mark Syms  19:14  

Yeah, that’s, that’s great to have somebody as a mentor to guide people that and be, you know, putting people out in the community that hopefully mirror that and selecting people to get the privilege to be an otolaryngologist because I will say, I am so pleased to end up in this field within medicine. I just feel so blessed every day. We got pretty lucky and I stumbled. I was lucky enough to have my dad show me the way a lot of you and isn’t your brother, maybe an antenna So yeah, I read that. That’s right. So I’d rather you

Mark Strasser  19:46  

were lucky to have people show us this but you know, and I have that much more respect for people that didn’t have those experiences and figured it out because it’s a good yet and you know, I mean, everybody can you don’t want to diminish what other specialties have, obviously, but we know, we know. And you and I both know how envious a lot of our colleagues are of our, our work it well, if they’re happy in their field, that’s great. I just feel blessed to be able to do what I do, you know, that combination of long term relationships, short term relationships, and I mean, you know

Dr. Mark Syms  20:19  

I was just commenting to a patient The other day I met her, you know, 12 years ago, she’s hearing impaired, she says, I don’t want a cochlear implant. It’s like, okay, so she got her first one Finally, like 11 and a half years later, and then two months later, she’s coming in for a second. And I was like, do you remember when, and it was just like that whole evolution and be able to go through that with somebody? You know, it’s a great privilege. 

Mark Strasser  20:42  

It really is. It absolutely is. Yep.

Dr. Mark Syms  20:46  

That’s great. Well, you know, Mark, one of the things I asked everybody is like, so, you know, say you’re accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award? Who do you say? Who are the people that you say, Hey, thank you. I mean, who are those people? Because I think it’s great to shout out.

Mark Strasser  20:59  

We always got to start for me with mama and papa. You know, they brought you into the world and they got you so far along and, and so you always start with those two for me. And then I would always, of course, then mention my wife. And, you and I know how it is not easy being married to doctors and going through residency and training and so on. It’s a cruise. We are. I remember when we were interns the first day or the first couple day speech we got was okay, look around you. Those of you that married half of you’re gonna be divorced, somebody gave us that speech, you know, within five years or whatever. And that was real uplifting, you know, going into the back. My father was an internist needs to say, medicine is a very demanding mistress. Right.

Dr. Mark Syms  21:57  

And so that’s why I like for me actually took me a long time to decide this is what I wanted to do. I was like, that’s not a really strong sell.

Mark Strasser  22:05  

Yeah. And you know, I mean, my dad worked pretty hard. So I saw the workload, but those would be the people I would start to thank there are so many others that if you got an hour, and a Red Bull we can go through but definitely Oh, that’s where I’d start. Yeah

Dr. Mark Syms  22:23  

I think that’s great. So I appreciate that. I mean, I think right family matters. And having a teammate who’s going to help you become more and help your family become more that there’s nothing more that you can ask for in life than that.

Mark Strasser  22:37  

No question. Every. You know, as we started the conversation before we went on the air, we didn’t get younger, and it becomes more and more obvious how important those relationships are.

Dr. Mark Syms  22:50  

Yeah. So everybody, I want to thank Mark, we’ve been talking to Mark Strasser of Prescott ENT. Mark, where can people get a hold of you? How can they get in touch?

Mark Strasser  23:01  

Oh, well, they have a website, of course, and just call our office if they need an appointment. What’s the number 928-778-9190? That’s good.

Dr. Mark Syms  23:15  

All right, great. Reach out to Dr. Strasser if you need anything. All right, Mark. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

Mark Strasser  23:20  

Thank you, Mark.

Outro  23:24 
 Thanks for tuning in to the Listen Up! podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get updates on future episodes.

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