Sammy Tabbah, MD, was exposed to the field of medicine from an early age. “My father served as an inspiration. He was a general surgeon and one of the greatest role models in my life,” said Tabbah, Cincinnati Fetal Care Center’s newest maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialist.
Tabbah knew early on he wanted to go into medicine. But he didn’t choose his specialty until much later. A maternal-fetal medicine rotation while in medical school at the Northeast Ohio Medical University introduced him to the field of fetal intervention, when a patient was sent to the Cincinnati Fetal Care Center for evaluation. “That’s when I first learned about interventions for women while they were still pregnant. I had never heard of that before,” he said. “I was inspired by the ability to change an outcome before a baby is even born.”
He later completed his residency at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, followed by a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at The Ohio State University. He joined the Cincinnati Fetal Care Center in August 2014.
In his current role, Tabbah is one of five MFMs where he serves as the consultant for the high-risk pregnancy component of care. That means when a mom comes in with a fetus with any abnormalities, he goes over the imaging studies and counsels her regarding the impact of those anomalies during pregnancy and any associated issues. If there are any other medical problems, he also looks at how those might affect the baby’s development in general. In addition, he’ll explore what impact the mother’s medical history and the fetus’s issues will have on delivery.
“Every day is a new challenge,” Tabbah said. “I enjoy that aspect of it—having the opportunity to help my patients and to give them the answers they’ve been seeking and hope they come to an understanding of what their individual issues are. Conveying excellent care to patients drives my day-to-day work.”
Tabbah appreciates the unique structure of the Cincinnati Fetal Care Center, which combines the expertise of three organizations: Cincinnati Children’s, Good Samaritan Hospital, and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. “I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “Only a few centers in the country are set up this way. We have all of the subspecialties that need to address the patient in one room with the patient and her family, so they get a comprehensive viewpoint through pregnancy up to the time of delivery and after.”
In the field of fetal care, Tabbah emphasizes that there are a wide variety of scenarios where a pregnant woman might need to see an MFM specialist. He advises those women to first see a specialist close to home. “It’s possible they could receive care safely locally,” he said. “But for certain problems, they may need to go to a larger city that has the adequate subspecialty to take care of the baby after the baby is born.”
Tabbah admits his specialty is one that is emotionally challenging. Sometimes he can give families hope; other times he can’t. That has been a source of great learning for him. “It’s not so much what you can do for patients that they appreciate. It’s how you deliver the information, how well you explain the situation, and how comfortable you make them feel while you’re doing it,” he explained. “I’m honored to be able to walk families through these difficulties they’re going through and help them understand. That’s what drives me to wake up every morning and take care of these patients.”