Provider Spotlight: Chris Graber, M.D., Salina, Kansas
August 01, 2019
By Jessica Lindsey
"The first and second years of medical school are very heavy with book learning and I still didn't know what area of medicine I wanted to go into.... My Ob/Gyn rotation clicked with me immediately..."
It was the small-town aspects paired with big-city amenities and a broad medical community that drew Newton, Kan. natives Christopher Graber, M.D., and wife, Mandi, to Salina. And while it has proven to be a great place to practice medicine and raise a family, an unexpected bonus has been the opportunity for Graber to pursue another one of his passions.
"I've been acting and singing since high school in Newton and I was in many shows in college," said Graber, an Ob/Gyn with Salina Women's Clinic. "I love the freedom that taking on a role provides. Making those characters come to life is an act of creation that has always intrigued and interested me."
Since moving to Salina in 2009, Graber has been a part of Salina Community Theatre productions of 12 Angry Men, Clybourne Park, Spamalot, Beauty and the Beast and Mamma Mia!
"Salina Community Theatre has been a wonderful blessing for me and my family," said Graber. "I'm not sure that I would be able to be involved with theatre to this depth in any other town or city."
It was theatre that brought Graber and his wife together. They met when Newton High School performed Big! The Musical; Graber was the assistant director and Mandi the stage manager. Now after 17 years of marriage, theatre continues to be a big part of their lives and their children, Andrew, and Camille, have joined in as well.
"My kids are now old enough to be in the shows and that's been a real kick also," Graber said. "My son Andrew, played Chip in Beauty and Beast and it was a real highlight to share the stage with him."
|Dr. Graber with his wife Mandi, and their children Camille and Andrew.|
This past spring, all four Grabers were involved in the production of Mamma Mia!
"Andrew wanted to help so he worked with props backstage and watched the show many times from behind the scenes," said Graber, who took on the role of Bill. "Both Mandi and Camille helped with costumes. I have yet to be in a show with Camille but I can't wait for that day."
Before he discovered theatre, Graber had found his first passion. By the time he was in middle school, Graber knew he wanted to be a physician. So when it came time to choose a profession for his sixth-grade shadow project, he didn't hesitate.
"I followed a Newton surgeon for a day and didn't make it through my first surgery. I had to excuse myself because I got light-headed," recalled Graber.
Today the operating room is a comfortable and familiar place. In fact, Graber and fellow Salina Women's Clinic physician Merle Hodges, M.D., reached a milestone recently when they performed their 1,000th da Vinci hysterectomy.
"We started da Vinci surgeries shortly after I arrived in Salina about nine years ago," Graber said. "The advantage to patients is incredible-shorter time in the hospital and a much shorter recovery. I use the da Vinci more than I ever would have guessed. And I have to admit that it's fun to use and a bit of a challenge every time."
While his first operating room experience didn't go as planned, Graber clearly was not deterred. His love of science and medicine led Graber to Bethel College where he quadruple majored biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, graduating in 2001.
"I've always loved science and in college did several summers doing research in labs on medical school campuses," Graber said. "I enjoyed the summer but could never see myself doing that long term."
He entered the University of Kansas School of Medicine, spending the first two years in Kansas City and the final two years at the Wichita campus.
"The first and second years of medical school are very heavy with book learning and I still didn't know what area of medicine I wanted to go into, but I loved learning about all of it so I knew I had made the right career choice," Graber said. "After dense textbooks for years one and two, we finally got to do a range of rotations during third year."
His Ob/Gyn rotation was late in his third year. And while he had enjoyed each rotation leading up to it, he hadn't found the right match.
"My Ob/Gyn rotation clicked with me immediately and my wife was the first to notice," Graber said. "She commented, ‘You really like this stuff, don't you?' I would come home every night and talk excitedly about the patients or the deliveries or the surgeries."
Graber completed his Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2009 and began practicing in Salina soon after.
"I love delivering babies," said Graber, who has around 150 deliveries each year. "It's certainly the thing that interested me in Ob/Gyn and it keeps me coming back. Most doctors have to occasionally be awake at 2:00 a.m. and if I'm going to be up late then I want to be delivering a baby."
In addition, Graber enjoys the ability to perform surgery and the continuity of care that his career offers.
"I practice general Ob/Gyn, meaning a little bit of everything," Graber said. "The closest specialists for cancer, infertility, and high-risk pregnancy are 90 miles away in Wichita so I always try and keep my patients here in Salina unless I really have to send them away."
His commitment to his patients is one of the things that makes Graber stand out, said Kimberly Tarnawsky, who works as Graber's nurse at Salina Women's Clinic.
"I've had the pleasure of seeing him in the office as well as the delivery room and he's amazing," said Tarnawsky. "He takes all the time needed to make sure our patients understand and have all questions answered before they leave. He's very thorough and our patients love that about him."
Tarnawsky, who has worked closely with Graber since his first day nearly 10 years ago, added that Graber's compassionate nature and community involvement also have made a big impact on those around him.
"I love what I do, and I owe that to Dr. Graber," Tarnawsky said. "He's willing to teach and is a very patient man. He always has a smile on his face, and it's genuine. I'm fortunate to have him in my life and I think our patients feel the same way. And he and his family being active with the Salina Community Theatre really shows people another side of him and all the many talents they have."