Dr. Hugh Sabahi knows exactly what he will miss the most.
“The people,” he said.
Sabahi crossed paths with many people during his 25 years as a radiologist at Columbia Memorial Hospital. He said he is grateful for the diligent technologists he worked alongside, as well as the front desk and secretarial staff, whom he considers integral to the team.
But it was the interactions with patients and the thank-you cards that often kept him going during 60 to 80-hour work weeks.
“It’s that appreciation that makes you feel good,” said Sabahi, who retired in June.
Before he arrived in Astoria in 1996, Sabahi spent eight years in the Midwest while paying off medical school debts. But he soon realized the dry, farm-filled landscape wasn’t suitable enough to fulfill his passion for mountain biking and exploring the outdoors.
When he saw an opening at Columbia Memorial, it was an easy decision.
“That’s perfect,” he recalled. “No traffic. Get to live on the coast. It really was a no-brainer.”
Sabahi took on numerous roles at the hospital, including the professional staff president on the Board of Trustees, the radiation safety officer, the imaging department’s medical director and a position on the tumor board.
He said he took on the responsibilities “to be more active in playing a role in the direction that the hospital takes. Being more involved in the hospital — not just politics — but helping shape the future of the hospital.”
Sabahi is credited for helping to bring technology that advanced Columbia Memorial’s imaging department. In particular, he was an advocate for getting 3D mammography machines and offering low-dose CT lung cancer screening.
“I wanted to stay up to date,” he said. “Medicine changes rapidly, and technology changes rapidly. That’s actually one of the things that attracted me to radiology.”
Looking back, he said he has no regrets. He is glad he now has time to enjoy his many hobbies, most notably entomology, astronomy, videography and photography. Most of all, he is eager to add to his already extensive list of travels, which includes the remote parts of the Amazon and Mount Kilimanjaro.
But as for where home lies, he doesn’t plan on leaving Astoria anytime soon.
Sabahi recalled a time during a visit to Honningsvåg, the northernmost tip in Norway, when he said he came to a realization.
“I was just walking the streets and I thought, ‘My God, this reminds me of Astoria,’” he said. “The hills, the houses, the trees and even the water … I’ve come all this way to see a town that is very remote which reminds me of Astoria.
“It made me feel good. I feel like I’m vacationing when I’m here at home.”