Dr Hugh Sabahi knows exactly what he will miss the most.
“People,” he said.
Sabahi has come across many people during his 25 years as a radiologist at Columbia Memorial Hospital. He said he was grateful to the diligent technologists he has worked with, as well as front desk and secretarial staff, whom he sees as an integral part of the team.
But it was the interactions with patients and the thank you cards that often sustained him through 60- to 80-hour work weeks.
“It’s that appreciation that makes you feel good,” said Sabahi, who retired in June.
Before arriving in Astoria in 1996, Sabahi spent eight years in the Midwest while paying off debts from her medical school. But he soon realized that the dry, farm-filled landscape was not suitable enough to satisfy his passion for mountain biking and exploring the outdoors.
When he saw an opening at the Columbia Memorial, it was an easy decision.
“It’s perfect,” he recalls. “No traffic. Come live on the coast. It was really obvious.
Sabahi has served in many roles at the hospital, including chairman of the professional staff of the board of directors, radiation protection officer, medical director of the imaging department, and member of the tumor committee.
He said he had taken responsibility “to be more active by playing a role in the direction the hospital takes. To be more involved in the hospital – not just politics – but to help shape the future of the hospital. “
Sabahi is credited with helping bring technology that advanced Columbia Memorial’s imaging department. In particular, he was an advocate for obtaining 3D mammography machines and low dose CT lung cancer screening.
“I wanted to stay up to date,” he said. “Medicine is changing rapidly and technology is changing rapidly. This is actually one of the things that drew me to radiology.
Looking back, he said he had no regrets. He is happy now that he has the time to enjoy his many hobbies including entomology, astronomy, videography and photography. Above all, he is eager to add to his already long list of trips, which includes remote parts of the Amazon and Mount Kilimanjaro.
But as to where his house is, he has no plans to leave Astoria anytime soon.
Sabahi recalled a moment during a visit to Honningsvåg, the northernmost tip of Norway, where he said he had become aware.
“I was just walking the streets and I was like, ‘My God, that reminds me of Astoria,'” he said. “The hills, the houses, the trees and even the water… I came all this way to see a very remote town that reminds me of Astoria.
“It did me good. I feel like I’m on vacation when I’m home.