Britt H. Tonnessen, MD, FACS is a vascular surgeon who treats patients with a variety of conditions that affect the arteries and veins, including carotid disease, peripheral vascular disease, venous disease, and thoracic outlet syndrome. As a vascular expert, she cares for older patients with hardening of the arteries, as well as younger patients who may develop different types of problems, such as varicose veins or chronic wounds on the legs.
Dr. Tonnessen says the decision to become a doctor came naturally to her. “I wanted to help people. It's as simple as that.” She was inspired by excellent mentorship and early exposure to vascular surgery as a medical student at the Mayo Clinic in the 1990s.
She ultimately became a vascular surgeon for three reasons. “One, you have continuity of patient care over time—these are patients you follow for many years. Two, the science behind the work I do is logical and interesting. Three, minimally invasive “endovascular” techniques have really revolutionized the field," she says. "When I was an intern, all of the patients had large incisions on their abdomens. Traditional surgery is still appropriate for some, but now we can do many procedures through a small puncture in the groin or even in the foot.”
Vascular surgery can be demanding, but there are many rewards, Dr. Tonnessen says. “It's so gratifying for me to get a cold foot back to a warm foot (because circulation has improved), to relieve pain for someone whose leg has been swollen for years, or to repair someone's potentially life-threatening aneurysm through a couple of small groin punctures," she says. "In medicine, we're never looking for a thank you, but the satisfaction from patients whose lives were transformed has made it all worthwhile.”