Dr. Ivo Bekavac is a happy man. He has a great family, he loves people, he loves the Cedar Valley, and he loves his job. He’s not going anywhere. A neurologist, Dr. Bekavac practices in Cedar Valley Medical Specialists’ Neurology Department. Neurology is the branch of medicine that deals with the anatomy, functions and organic disorders of nerves, muscles and the nervous system. A neurologist diagnoses and treats disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord, muscles and nerves.
A native of Croatia, Dr. Bekavac completed medical school in Croatia at the University of Zagreb. Following this, he went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he started his postdoctoral studies in neuroscience. These studies were completed in Philadelphia at Hahnemann University in 1994.
Upon completion of his research, which according to Dr. Bekavac broadened his medical knowledge and, most importantly, helped him to develop very critical thinking skills, he went to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a top-five hospital, to start his residency in neurology. Upon completing his residency in 1998 from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Dr. Bekavac was about to start his academic career at the University of Cincinnati when he was contacted by a colleague and friend about an opportunity to join him in Iowa.
He was so impressed with the hospitality during the interview that he decided to join Cedar Valley Medical Specialists and planned to make his home in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. After five years here, his colleague moved south and asked him to join him in relocating.
"I said, 'Forget it. I’m staying. My first job was here, and hopefully it’s the last one until I retire,’ ” Dr. Bekavac says. “I love my job, I love my community, and I enjoy every single moment being able to help my patients.”
Besides being board-certified in neurology, Dr. Bekavac is also board-certified in vascular neurology, electrodiagnostic medicine (EMG) and neuroimaging. He’s just one of two neurologists in Iowa, and 140 in the country, who are board-certified in neuroimaging. With strong roots in academics, he also continues to publish and teach. Dr. Bekavac recently was appointed as adjunct associate professor in neurosurgery at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
As to whether there is an impact and prevalence of technology in his field, Dr. Bekavac says, “Yes, technology is a huge aid in medical diagnostics; this includes MRIs, CT scans, EMG, PET scans, EEG and spinal taps.” He believes that the most important part of his daily clinical work is face-to-face discussions with his patients, and the time spent with patients and their families.
“The most important thing is the history (of the patient),” he says.
The medical technology is significant, but a patient’s personal history and a clinical exam is paramount. Every patient is unique. For some chronic conditions — such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (just to mention a few) — the bond you create with your patients is a lasting one. He says, “We become like a family. It is all about trust. The trust you earn with your knowledge, your work and your passion. The patients know that.” He adds, “One of the most important measures of the quality of your work is the percentage of your patients that come back to see you again, and we are extremely proud of our numbers.”
When asked about his staff, Dr. Bekavac says teamwork is invaluable, moreso than in any other field. Without his office staff, his accomplishments would not be possible. He pointed out that what it comes down to is the quality of care, and knowledge and passion for the patients.
Besides his job, he also is involved in sports, in particular soccer. He and his team of “old people” have played together for the past 17 years. On top of having fun and enjoying friendship, they have won many championships, not only in Iowa, but in other states as well.
He is a proud husband and proud father of four girls: one is a recent graduate from the University of Northern Iowa, the second is a UNI senior, and the youngest ones are in elementary and junior high school, respectively.