For several months in a row, Anita Ragland ended up in the hospital with severe pneumonia that almost took her life.
Her health took a positive turn when she received the right diagnosis and right medication from the right specialist, Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Mercy in Ada.
Ragland was diagnosed with Immunoglobulin G deficiency, a condition that makes her highly susceptible to developing infections. He recommended intravenous immunoglobulin treatments every four weeks, which has been a lifesaver for Ragland. Without the treatment, the 57-year-old said she would have died.
“He (Ahmed) basically saved my life and I’ve just gotten better and better and better,” said Ragland, a former nurse. “He’s empathetic when you need him and highly compassionate. He is not afraid to touch you and listen to your lungs. He just tries to help you and that’s what I like about him. I’m so appreciative that we have someone like him in Ada.”
A ‘Compassionate Man’ and ‘Superb Doctor’
Ahmed is among a very elite group of physicians in Oklahoma and across the country with multiple board certifications. He is board certified in four specialty areas: internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, sleep medicine and critical care medicine. Only 16 out of nearly 13,000 physicians in Oklahoma have three or more board certifications, according to the Oklahoma Medical Board.
“By being quadruple board certified, it helps me understand the spectrum of diseases and keep patients healthy and out of the hospital and the ICU,” said Ahmed. “But if they get sick, I know how to treat them.”
Ahmed said there are a lot of overlapping conditions where he can use his expertise in all four specialty areas to provide the very best care to patients. For example, patients with obesity-related sleep apnea can also develop obesity-related hypoventilation syndrome, which is a condition where poor breathing patterns can cause low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
In this case, he can order sleep studies to determine if patients have sleep apnea, which is a condition where a person stops breathing for at least 10 seconds at a time while sleeping. If patients have sleep apnea and hypercapnia (elevated carbon dioxide levels in the blood), he can get them on a Bi-level ventilation breathing machine. This can possibly save their lives by preventing the build-up of carbon dioxide and the development of hypoventilation syndrome.
Ragland has witnessed firsthand the benefit of Ahmed’s specialized training.
Since receiving the intravenous immunoglobulin treatments, Ragland no longer needs her asthma medication and her lung function continues to improve. Ahmed also ran tests, including a sleep study, and diagnosed her sleep apnea. Ragland uses a breathing machine, which helps her get enough oxygen at night. Thanks to these improvements, she is exercising, losing weight and no longer gets sick every time she leaves her house.
In the past, “just walking outside to the mailbox was life-threatening,” said Ragland, of Ada. “I couldn’t do it. Now, I can do that and I exercise.”
She recently walked the sea wall in Corpus Christi with her 3-year-old granddaughter, which was a big victory.
A Born Leader and Caregiver
On April 1, Ahmed began a new part-time role in addition to his medical practice as vice president of medical affairs at Mercy Hospital Ada. In this role, he serves on the hospital’s senior management team and provides leadership to clinical staff and administrators. He focuses on implementing new initiatives, and improving patient care and overall patient satisfaction.
“I’m looking at whether patients are getting the care they deserve and whether our care is up to the standards,” he said.
Ahmed believes patients want to know their physicians and providers understand all of their health care needs since patients often have multiple medical problems that can complicate their care, much like what his own father experienced.
Ahmed’s family had to relocate to the southern Pakistani city of Karachi when East Pakistan became part of Bangladesh in 1971, displacing millions. Ahmed’s father had high blood pressure, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, which is pain and weakness caused by nerve damage. He traveled back and forth between Pakistan and Bangladesh for several years, neglecting his health during the turbulent time and setting himself up for poor health later in life.
It was his father’s medical struggles and the compassionate care shown by Pakistani physicians that led Ahmed to a career in medicine.
Several decades later, he is delivering his own compassionate care to residents in the Ada area.
Like Ragland, Terry and Beth Buie have also benefited from Ahmed’s medical talent and gentle spirit. Both Terry and Beth Buie have chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which is a lung disease that makes it increasingly difficult to breathe. Terry Buie also has asthma and used to end up in the hospital frequently. Under Ahmed’s care over the last few years, Terry Buie’s conditions are better managed by medication and he has made fewer visits to the hospital.
“My daughter says Dr. Ahmed is the reason my husband is still alive,” said Beth Buie. “We just think he is a super guy. He’s personable. He takes time to talk. You can be friends with him, but he’s a superb doctor. He’s someone with knowledge, charisma and passion for people — there’s a lot to be said for that