The fatherly advice that shaped our doctors

As Father’s Day approaches, we asked our doctors to share their fathers’ words of wisdom that left an everlasting mark. Here’s what they said about the men who’ve shaped them to become compassionate care providers and pioneering researchers. 

Ask bold questions 

“My father told me to ‘ask bold questions and then look for the answers.’ I share his sense of curiosity and desire to learn, and took my inspiration from him to become a physician (he was a cardiothoracic surgeon). His advice led me to engage in scientific and clinical efforts to improve treatment for our patients, including those with one of the deadliest forms of cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer.” — Stephen Lai, M.D., Ph.D.

A strong work ethic

“My father didn’t have a formal education beyond the sixth grade, but he worked long hours to make a better life for his family. When I was a teenager, he encouraged me to continue on with school. I became the first person in my family to graduate from college, and now I’m the Medical Director of MD Anderson in The Woodlands. I learned about a strong work ethic, dedication, determination and passion from my dad. He passed away during my internship year, and I wish he could see me now.” — Pamela Schlembach, M.D.

The value of respect

“My dad was a deli manager at a grocery store for 40 years. No matter what was going on in his life, he always smiled and treated his customers with respect. As a physician, I always strive to do the same with my patients and colleagues.” — Joe Herman, M.D.

A commitment to patients

“My dad, also a physician, likes to remind me that good doctors never lose sight of their goal: caring for their patients. It’s easy to get caught up in the paperwork, insurance companies and research goals, but the priority is always patient care.” — Anisha Patel, M.D.

“My dad told me to do what I love, work hard and always care for my patients as if they’re family. He also said to not expect anything in return, but to know that I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge that I have. His support has been vital in the challenges I encounter, both personally and professionally, and I’m so grateful to have a wonderful father like him!” — Ekta Gupta, M.D.

“My father was a physician and also the primary caregiver of his aging parents. He’s a humble man, but his actions that spoke louder than any words. His commitment to his parents and how he cared for them really shaped the way I see my work as a physician. It also allowed me to gain insight into the challenges our patients’ families may face when taking care of their loved ones.”– Melissa Chen, M.D.

Do the right thing

My father strongly influenced me and my career, but more so through his actions than his spoken advice. He set a great example of the benefit of hard work, the value in attention to detail and the importance of doing what was right and not what was easy.” — Donald Schomer, M.D.

Like what you do

“My father — an ear, nose and throat doctor — led by example. He loved what he did and showed me how important it is to like what you’re doing. When in training, my plan was to join my dad’s practice after I graduated. But when I developed a love for head and neck surgery, he completely supported me to pursue it and to stay in academics. My dad was the best surgeon I’ve ever met. That more than anything encouraged me to try to be the same.” — Eduardo Diaz Jr., M.D.

Do what makes you happy

“I was originally a radiology resident, but I missed interacting with patients so I debated switching to medical oncology. Several of my family members discouraged the change, given the loss of residency years and increased medical school debt. Then one day I received a letter from my father. He said he felt it was more important that I be happy and he would support my decision in whatever I wanted to do. That small handwritten note meant so much to me — it provided support to me and solidified my decision. And I have no regrets.” 
— Cathy Eng, M.D.

Remember where you come from

“Two things my dad said that stuck with me are: the importance of education and to not forget where I come from (Ethiopia), so that one day I can help others there. It had a significant impact in shaping who I am today.” — Salahadin Abdi, M.D., Ph.D.

A moral compass

“My dad has always modeled staying true to your moral compass and trying to be impactful to those around you. I think that directly influences how I behave and make decisions as a parent, spouse, doctor, leader, colleague and mentor.” — Anita Kuo Ying, M.D.

The gift of a strong work ethic

“My father instilled in me a strong work ethic and family values with these three pieces of advice: 

  • Be the best you can be.
  • Take care of yourself so you can take care of your family and patients.
  • Every decision in life is a question of cost-benefit.

I couldn’t be part of MD Anderson’s team if I wasn’t consistently trying my best. I couldn’t be a husband and proud father of three or care for my patients if I occasionally didn’t take a break to care for myself. And I wouldn’t have been able to guide my patients through their surgical journey responsibly without emphasizing cost and benefit.” — Victor Hassid, M.D.

 Do the right thing

“Do the right thing. Nothing in life comes free. Don’t ever owe anyone. Know your costs and don’t be frivolous. And it’s never too late to change.” — Nancy Perrier, M.D.

 Be a kind physician

“Neither of my parents have a medical background, so most of my dad’s advice were good general life lessons: ‘Be a good person. Do something you are proud of. Take care of people.’ He passed away in 2012, and some of his last advice has had the biggest impact on my surgical career. He said ‘I’d never have known I was so sick without all of my doctors telling me, so above all else, be a kind physician.’ I see people at a very vulnerable time in their lives, and I try to remember that with each patient.” — Summer Hanson, M.D.

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