Meet the Doctor: Dr. Kate Khalifeh


Why did you choose a career in health care? I actually started my career as a nurse. I worked about 10 year before deciding that I couldn’t be too critical of others’ decisions unless I was willing to step up and be the leader myself. I went back to med school thinking I would be an intensivist (ICU doctor). I ended up some place totally different.

Why did you choose your specialty? When I was a third year resident my seniors were all planning for specializations in cardiac surgery. Since they were not interested in colon surgery, I got sent to all the cases, and fell in love. Colorectal surgery is interesting and rewarding. There are the more serious cases, like removing cancer or creating pouches, and more routine procedures like hemorrhoids or colonoscopies. For me it’s a great mix and variety of cases.

What is the most rewarding part of your work? Colon cancer can be cured with surgery. That is satisfying. But honestly, some of my happiest and most satisfied patients are those with anorectal problems. People often suffer for a long time before they come to see me and are surprised how much better they can feel.

What is the most challenging part of your work? Complications. Everyone has them but they can weigh heavily on me. Unfortunately, it is part of the territory and we all have to learn how to handle these, but I sure can beat myself up if things don’t go perfectly. I want to have everyone do great and fly through surgery, but that is not reality.

Tell us about a day when you felt like you really made a difference in a patient’s life? I immediately think of a few particular patients that had recurrent diverticulitis for years. They could not eat, felt poorly and had no energy to make it through their days. All of them tell me they did not realize how miserable they were until after surgery. They feel like they have their life back. That is an awesome feeling.

What can you tell busy women to ensure they don’t overlook their own health? Get your screening, whether that is colonoscopy, mammogram or GYN exam and routine physicals. The whole point is to catch things early. Often by the time people have symptoms it’s not a simple fix.

How have you seen health care in your field improve during your time? Early recovery protocols after surgery have improved tremendously. A combination of simple measures have turned week long hospital stays into 48 hour stays. People constantly tell me that they cannot believe how quickly they recovered and get out of the hospital.

How can we encourage women to place a greater focus on their health at an early age? Wow if I knew that I’d be a better woman! I think we have such a tendency to focus on everyone else besides ourselves, but unfortunately if we don’t take time and care for ourselves now, we won’t be there the way we want to be in the future. I preach, but I am not always the best in practice.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kate Khalifeh or one of her fellow specialists at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery, PC call (703) 280-2841 or visit