Dr. Stacy Geisler has over twenty-five years of surgical experience and is known for her loving care of patients. She and her team prioritize treating you as an individual with unique needs. Dr. Geisler respects and acknowledges the inherent dignity of all individuals regardless of age, race, gender or religious beliefs. In 2013, Dr. Geisler was ordained as a Deacon in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Your compassionate care is one of our team’s highest priorities. You can read more about Dr. Geisler’s life and sensitive care of patients in the article below.
Dr. Stacy Anne Stewart Geisler
Practicing the Art of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
By Sarah Thomas
Dr. Stacy Geisler feels like she’s chosen the best profession in world — she’s an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. “I have challenging and interesting work and I get to help people,” she says. “And I love learning about people and hearing their stories.
Geisler is the ﬁrst woman board-certiﬁed oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Oregon, but being one of the few women in her profession is nothing new to her. She worked her way through college as a ﬁreﬁghter — the only woman in her ﬁre station in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California.
Encouraged by her mother to try for the ﬁreﬁghter job, she credits this experience for setting the tone for the rest of her professional life. “It was really empowering,” she says. She had always been athletic and she had endurance, but she had to do extra training to build the upper body strength she needed. “I learned that when I set my mind to something and if I believe — and work really hard — it will happen,” she says. “And I got exposed to a lot of very intense experiences at a young age.” She also learned about service to others and teamwork. “Our lives depended on each of us doing our jobs.”
WORKING HARD TO ACHIEVE HER GOALS
Having a sister with special needs and growing up around special needs children convinced her early in her life she wanted to be in one of the helping professions. She got her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis. Through the school’s many internship programs she was able to shadow a physician and a general surgeon, and to work in a home with young adults who were schizophrenic. But her favorite internship was with an oral surgeon. She was fascinated that he gave patients anesthesia in his ofﬁce and, as someone who had sewn and quilted since she was a small girl, she loved the small, detailed surgeries he did. “I never considered being a general dentist, an orthodontist, or a periodontist,” she says. “But I loved the connection to dentistry. This was the only surgical profession I’d heard of that came out of dentistry. I thought it was really wonderful because it seemed to be really unique.”
As a dental student at Case Western Reserve she spent a lot of time in the oral surgery department and did oral surgery every chance she got. While she was there she met a woman oral surgeon in private practice who discouraged her from going into the profession. Also at Case Western one of her male professors discouraged her. He told her, “This is going to be really hard. You’re very bright and you’re really good with your hands; that’s not the problem. But not having a lot of women around and being in a male-dominated ﬁeld is going to be very hard.” However, he also told her, “If this is really your dream, don’t let anybody stand in your way. Just go into it with your eyes open.”
COMMITMENT TO RESEARCH
After an “exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting” residency at the University of Texas at Houston, she moved to Chapel Hill, NC, because her husband, a polymer scientist, had been offered a job in Research Triangle Park. Geisler had decided she wanted to go into academia because she thought that’s where all the really interesting surgery cases would be.
She was chosen to be a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and did research funded by the National Institutes of Health. In that study, she looked at how genetics predict survival rates in neck cancer patients. “I was really interested in this,” she says, “because in Texas I had operated out of MD Anderson Cancer Center. We would do all these amazing surgeries on people and then their cancer would come back and they’d die. It was awful.”
Geisler enjoyed research, but her ﬁrst love has always been surgery. “I got involved in research to improve the outcomes of surgery patients,” she explains. “My research has always ﬂowed out of my clinical work.”
After receiving her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from UNC at Chapel Hill, Geisler interviewed a couple of dental schools and fell in love with Oregon. She and her husband both grew up in California and both wanted to return to the West Coast.
In 2002 she started working and teaching at Oregon Health Sciences University Dental School. She taught oral surgery residents and senior dental students. She also decided it was time to get board certiﬁed. “Normally you go through board certiﬁcation two years after ﬁnishing your residency,” she says, but because I was in a Ph.D. program, I had to put that on hold. It drove me crazy because I wanted to get it done.”
After she started at OHSU she called the board and told them she wanted to take parts 1 and 2 back-to-back. The board did not want her to do that because of the high failure rate for people who do. But she convinced them that she would be able to do it. “It was similar to when I was a ﬁreﬁghter,” she says. “As a ﬁreﬁghter, I had to train extra hours at night to build up my physical strength. This time I decided I would put in the extra hours studying and work really hard.” Not surprisingly, she passed.
At the same time her practice as part of the OHSU Medical Group kept growing. “I just loved it,” she says. “But I got busier and busier. I was torn in all these different directions and ﬁnally realized I had to prioritize.”
As always, when she had to choose what she loved best she chose her clinical work. She also realized that she could have just as interesting and challenging cases in private practice as she had at OHSU.
GOING INTO PRIVATE PRACTICE
A marketing company helped her pick Lake Oswego as a place that could use another oral and maxillofacial surgeon. She opened her ofﬁce in October 2005, and now is seeing twice as many patients as she projected in her business plan. Many of the physicians she worked with at OHSU and at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital refer patients to her, “some very complex, challenging cases,” she says. Many of her patients are children.
Geisler designed her ofﬁce with her patients in mind. Because having oral surgery is quite stressful, she wanted her space to be relaxing and soothing, starting with the earth-toned reception area with soft brown chairs and sea-colored carpet. Knowing many of her patients would be children, she had a furniture-maker design magazine tables for the reception area that opens up to form desks, so parents can work while their children are being operated on, even using the ofﬁce wireless Internet connection.
Another touch that helps patients feel at ease is the operatories. Here, the equipment — suction, monitoring, nitrous, etc. — is tucked away in a cabinet behind the patient and can be pulled out when needed. To help her patients relax, Geisler has them take off their shoes, gives them a neck pillow, and covers them with a blanket. “We wanted the ofﬁce to feel kind of like a spa,” she says, “but not too over-the-top.” The operatories all have big windows with shades that raise from the bottom, providing privacy as well as lots of light. “We put patients on nitrous before we start their IVs, so it’s really mellow and soothing,” she explains.
TECHNOLOGY TO BENEFIT PATIENTS
In one operatory a big, padded window seat gives parents and siblings a place to sit while Geisler explains the procedure she will perform on a child.
The ofﬁce is completely paperless and digitized. Before operating, Geisler can show patients an X-ray of their mouth on the computer and explain what she is going to do and why. “I invested a lot of money in technology,” she says, “because I want this to be the kind of place where I would want to come.” One example of how her technology helps her and her patients is capnography, which she uses when patients are under anesthesia.
Capnography is a computerized wave form that shows whether the patient is breathing or not. It measures CO2. “If they have any kind of respiratory problem I know it immediately,” Geisler says. “And usually if they have an anesthesia problem it’s respiratory.”
Using digital radiography allows her to make precise measurements to accommodate the implants before she places them. “This technology helps me educate patients. It also helps avoid complications. I can do a lot of preparation before I do the actual surgery,” she explains. “I can plan it out ahead of time making sure I avoid the nerves and other things I want to avoid.”
Geisler has her own small laboratory where she makes her own stents. She likes to do this because it helps her be more precise. “If I’ve made the stent and I know what it’s going to look like the better I place the implant,” she says. “It also makes it easier for the restoring doctor. Sending it out to the lab might make it more convenient for me time-management-wise, but I think surgically I learn a lot, my brain learns a lot before I even do the surgery.”
She also uses platelet-rich plasma for some of her implant patients and other surgeries. In the ofﬁce, they take blood from the patient’s arm and separate out the serum from the plasma in a centrifuge. The plasma makes a kind of blood clot and has rich protein that helps with healing. “We can incorporate the plasma with our bone grafts and it makes the graft a lot easier to handle. Instead of being like sawdust, or particles of sand, it makes it more like putty.”
While she removes aggressive noncancerous tumors in patients, she refers cancer patients to doctors who specialize in cancer. She also is on call for trauma at St. Vincent’s Hospital where she gets a variety of complex, challenging cases.
As part of her compassionate care for patients, after surgery Geisler sends them home with their own individualized care package. It includes a pint of their favorite ice cream, an instant cold ice pack, Chapstick because lips tend to get chapped after surgery, a toothbrush, and mouth rinse because toothbrushes have lots of bacteria so a new toothbrush encourages healthy healing. The care package also includes tea which promotes healing and provides pain relief. Patients also receive an individualized pain management plan and dosing calendar. The ofﬁce also sends ﬂowers to patients as well as get well cards.
Dr. Geisler’s is a fee-for-service practice but she sometimes takes patients who cannot pay, such as a young woman she recently took care of who is on probation. The office offers a sliding scale based on need and also offers payment plans. Both medical and dental insurances are billed the day of the procedure with reimbursement coming directly to the patient.
When she’s not performing surgery, Geisler and her husband love to exercise together, go to the theater and the art museum, listen to jazz and read. They also have a very active social life and enjoy spending time with their many friends, having meals, and sharing a good bottle of wine. In 2013, Geisler was ordained as a Deacon in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Dr. Geisler feels lucky that she found a profession she loves and that she’s good at. “For me, I love the surgery — it’s challenging in terms of the concentration and the ﬂow of it, how you handle the tissue and how you put everything together. It’s beautiful to watch someone who’s really good at it. It’s a form of art.”
“The other piece I love is getting to know people. I become a small part of their lives. When people are having a hard time I can help them get through it in a graceful way, with dignity. I think that’s really wonderful.”