Med School/Year Graduated: University of Illinois,1991
Years in Practice: 18
You specialize in both cardiac and thoracic surgery. How do these two complement each other? Is it really as simple as the heart pumps blood to the lungs, therefore they need to be in harmony with each other?
It has more to do with location. We typically consider ourselves to be chest surgeons, operating on the structures located in the chest. It’s obviously more complex than that, but that’s my typical response when someone asks me what I do.
Which heart malady do you most often operate on?
My specialty within the specialty is “structural heart disorders,” which focus on illnesses associated with the valves of the heart, although I perform all aspects of adult heart and lung surgery.
Many of us have a perception of heart surgery being risky, intense and highly time-consuming. Are there recent innovations that perhaps make the prospect of heart surgery less scary to patients?
Heart surgery always carries some risks. However, in the year 2018, routine ailments of the heart that require surgery typically carry very low risk for catastrophic complications… typically on the order of 1-2 percent or less. The sicker the heart, the higher the risks. That’s clearly an advertisement to not ignore early symptoms and seek medical attention as early as possible.
You speak several languages, including Mandarin. How have you found Chinese culture in Phoenix? Any restaurant or healthy dish recommendations?
I came from Chicago, which is incredibly diverse in culture. When I relocated to Phoenix in 2000, I found the diversity of the city to be somewhat “vanilla.” I am happy to say that in the 18 years since, I have found the changes in diversity to be exponential. My favorite Chinese restaurant right now is Nee House near Tatum [Boulevard] and Thunderbird [Road]. Are the dishes I like healthy? Not so much!
What do you miss most about the Windy City?
The diversity, culture, food and, of course, all of my many friends. I don’t miss the weather… hence the reason I’m in Phoenix.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I had kids late in life. Surgical training was hard and long! I could barely take care of myself back then, let alone children, so I chose to delay a family life. Now, my work schedule is just as crazy. Despite the many incredible rewards of my profession, the biggest regret is the time it takes away from my beautiful kids. I am constantly worrying that they are growing up too fast and feel like I am missing everything that’s important. So whatever spare time off I have, I try to spend it with them.
“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, but there was that short time in college that I toyed with the idea of going into international trade. I spoke Mandarin Chinese and China was just starting to open up its doors to the West. [But] I doubt that route would have been as rewarding. I have a drawer full of letters from patients and their family thanking me for saving a loved one’s life as my proof!