This alumni profile of Ehsan Saadat appeared in the 2013 Bioengineering Department annual report.
Ehsan (B.S. 2006) is a third year resident in orthopaedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.
How did you get from Berkeley to where you are now?
The path to where I am now was not what I would have imagined eleven years ago when I started at Berkeley. I had always known that I wanted to become a doctor, and started at Berkeley as an undecided major in Letters and Science, when I came across a class called Freshman Seminars in Bioengineering. We spent an hour per week listening to professors talk about their research. It didn’t take long for me to realize that what I liked more than the pure science of biology and chemistry was to think about how to apply my understanding of biological systems to solve tangible problems for real people.
In my second year I was able to begin research on osteoarthritis with Professors Karen King and Sharmila Majumdar, which then grew into a rich collaboration with Drs. Michael Ries and Benjamin Ma at UCSF. I took a year off after college to pursue this interest and, once admitted to UCSF, was lucky to continue to work with my mentors during medical school.
What is awesome about your job?
What I absolutely love about orthopaedics is the ability to do real and tangible good for patients at a very vulnerable time of their lives. From taking care of a trauma patient, to someone who is unable to walk from the constant pain of arthritis, I love having the ability to do technically-challenging work to save or improve people’s lives. Seeing patients come back to the clinic with a smile on their face is what makes the long hours and hard work well worth it. Orthopaedics lets me dovetail my knowledge of biology and engineering with human anatomy every day in the operating room.
What is the hardest thing about it?
Taking care of others is a hard task, with many sleepless nights — because you may be in the operating room, or because you are up all night worrying about a patient or preparing for the next step of their care. Having a good network of support, of family and friends as well as colleagues, is hugely important.
How did bioengineering prepare you for your work?
What bioengineering taught me was not only how to understand a complex system by reducing it to its core elements, but also how to use that system to create a desired effect, or to change the system itself for the better. Being able to understand these principles and designs as an engineer makes me a better orthopaedic surgeon.
Do you miss anything about Berkeley?
What I miss most about Berkeley is the openness of its academic environment and the ample time and opportunity as an undergrad to pursue learning and exploration. Berkeley finds a way to challenge every student in one way or another, and the four years I spent at Berkeley were some of the most formative years of my life.
Any advice for current students?
I will pass on a piece of advice that I got from one of my professors at Berkeley. Follow your gradient: do what you love, do it passionately and honestly, and trust that your path becomes clear as time goes on. Success is an outcome, not a goal, and it comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. Allow life to play itself out. You should fight for what you want, but also realize that sometimes not getting what you want can be a wonderful stroke of good luck. Use setbacks as a chance to grow. And remember, Berkeley is a truly special place; take advantage of it while you are here.
Have any experiences made a big impact on you?
The experience of taking care of the Boston Marathon bombing victims this past April will always stay with me. It was remarkable and gratifying to see how well we all came together to do what needed to be done. Although we see awful injuries every day, the volume of this event and the fact that so many of the victims were close to our own ages made it especially hard. But the feeling of pride and privilege for having the skills and the opportunity to take care of other human beings that night was undeniable.