Finest Doctors 2018: Memorable Moments
We asked 10 doctors to share with readers a memorable day or experience in their medical careers.
Dr. Shaista Safder
Pediatric Gastroenterologist-Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children
It was my first day back at work after maternity leave and I was called into the ER to see a baby who had swallowed an earring. It was lodged in her esophagus and she needed an endoscopy. The mother was terrified, blaming herself for what happened. As we rolled her daughter into the OR, she grabbed my arm and said, “Please take care of my baby.” Although I’d done this procedure many times, being a first-time parent gave me a new perspective on this mother’s emotions. I’ve carried that feeling with me ever since and recognize it every time I’m dealing with someone else’s child. It’s become my philosophy to treat every child as if they were my own, putting myself in the parents’ shoes. Thankfully, the baby recovered just fine from her procedure and her mother was relieved and grateful. That night I went home and hugged my newborn daughter extra tight, recognizing how she has forever changed me as a person and a physician early in my career.
Dr. Herbert Newton
Director, Neuro-Oncology-Center Florida Hospital Medical Group
The people I treat are very sick. When their brain tumors are diagnosed, we go through the diagnosis and pathology, and I give them the most honest and accurate answer possible as to how long they can survive with the most aggressive treatments available. The focus immediately becomes crystal clear on short-term goals—the life events they want to be sure to live to see and be healthy enough to participate in. One of my patients with glioblastoma—a fast-growing, incurable brain cancer—was determined to live long enough to see her daughter get married. We did everything we could to make sure she could be part of the planning and enjoy all the events surrounding the wedding. We concentrated on the quality of the time she had. I was honored to be part of the fulfillment of her and her family's dreams.
Dr. Andre Hebra
Chief Medical Officer-Nemours Children’s Hospital
I had just completed my fellowship and was working my first job as a pediatric surgeon when a missionary group from Romania reached out regarding a 6-year-old-child who was dying from a congenital lung lesion. The medical team in Romania did not think they could treat this child, so the missionary group arranged to have him transported to the United States, and I assumed responsibility for his care. I recall vividly his distress and that of his mother, given the uncertainty of the future and being thrown into a foreign environment. After extensive surgery, the boy recovered beautifully and went back home three weeks later, cured. Fast-forward 20 years: That same patient reached out via social media to thank me. He also shared he was pursuing a career in health care because of his experience. This was a wonderful reminder that, as a surgeon, with every patient you treat you also have the humbling responsibility of shaping their future. It puts everything in perspective and keeps me motivated and inspired to always commit to doing my best.
Dr. Sheryl Logan
Obstetrics and Gynecology Women's Care Florida—OB & GYN Specialists
Delivering a healthy baby to parents is always a very special and enjoyable part of my job. Being an OB/GYN has given me some humbling experiences as well. In the early years of my career an extremely ill patient was brought to the hospital by her husband. Her baby had no heartbeat, and the woman had suffered a brain hemorrhage. One of my anesthesiologist colleagues and I were on call to take care of her. We delivered the baby, and then rushed the mom to ORMC for emergency brain surgery. The family was devastated. Miraculously, the mother recovered fully and became pregnant a few years later. The anesthesiologist and I were both present at the next two deliveries, where we cried with emotion. She and her family are currently doing well. I am blessed to be able to make these amazing connections with my patients, and I am thankful to be part of their journey even when they are facing life’s challenges.
Dr. Robert Chong
Pediatrician, Lake Mary Pediatrics—Florida Hospital Medical Group
Recently, a dad brought in his 4-year-old daughter, who had a distinctive “slapped cheek” rash. I diagnosed her with fifth disease, a common childhood viral illness presenting with a red rash on the face, upper arms and thighs. I was sure to inform him that joint pain is an associated symptom—I always bring this up because of the possibility that an adult caregiver can acquire the virus and present only with joint pain. The dad paused and said that his wife had been recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The pain in her joints was so bad, she had not been able to bring their daughter in for the appointment. I suggested that the mom undergo a simple blood test. Ultimately, it was determined she had also been infected with the virus, which was causing rheumatoid arthritis-like joint pain. Both mother and daughter were treated and are now free of symptoms. Sometimes the solutions that we provide are impactful in unexpected ways.
Dr. Antonio Crespo
Infectious Disease Physician Dr. P. Phillips Hospital
Infectious disease is an extraordinary area of medicine with the potential to have a global impact. In May 2014, the Friday before Mother’s Day, our preparedness was tested at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was discovered when a patient returned from Saudi Arabia with symptoms. I contacted the infection prevention unit and informed the health department. The next steps were to discuss with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and test the patient. On Sunday, we received a positive result. This was now the second case of MERS in the United States, discovered a week after the first in Michigan. An important consideration was that Orlando is a major tourist destination. I worked tirelessly to manage the well-being of the patient, as well as address the public concern. It was a tremendous learning experience for us at the hospital. In the end, no one contracted the infection and the patient recovered fully. Managing the threat required us to not only be prepared, but also for us to demonstrate agility and work as a cohesive team.
Dr. Shazia Bég
I learned quickly in my medical career that taking time to listen to patients and show compassion is as impactful as offering them a diagnosis or cure. When patients feel heard, it enhances the healing process by facilitating better care. A few years ago, I was taking care of a patient who would bring her quiet and sullen mother with her. I noticed the patient’s mother had advanced changes of rheumatoid arthritis in her hands. The patient told me that her mother stopped seeing doctors after they dismissed her pain a few times. Shortly thereafter, I was pleasantly surprised to see the mother in my exam room, this time as the patient. Her observations of me caring for her daughter made her comfortable to come see me. It is an honor to be given that trust. I cannot say that I have cured her, but her pain and mood have improved. Eventually, she was motivated to see her primary care doctor and, as a team, we have helped improve her quality of life.
Dr. Adrian Burrowes
Family Medicine CFP Physicians Group
I had a patient’s husband call my office one Sunday morning crying that he had been told that his wife of 62 years was about to die. She had been in hospice for two months with end-stage congestive heart failure and been a patient of mine for 12 years. He was calling to thank me for everything that I had done for her and said that she had told him earlier that day that she “wanted to see her doctor.” I left church and drove to their home and was able to see her and be at her bedside when she passed away. She kissed my hand before she died. I will never forget how grateful her husband and son were that I made the trip, and they will never know how blessed I felt that they allowed me to share such an intimate moment.
Dr. Julio Hajdenberg
Hematologist-Oncologist, Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center
There have been so many memorable patients in my career but every once in a while you realize you may have made a really big difference in someone’s life. A recent 70-year-old male patient comes to mind. We treated him for prostate and male breast cancer. The prostate cancer had become difficult to manage and he didn’t have many options left so we offered him a novel, unapproved, experimental therapy that we thought could target a specific genetic defect associated with these two malignancies. It was wonderful to see him transition from hope to actual and major palpable results. It was a reminder for me how cancer care enables us to make medical history with our patients and their families.
Dr. Thomas Cangiano
Minimally Invasive Urological Surgeon, Florida Urology Associates, Florida Hospital Medical Group
I had a patient who had been to multiple urologists over several years with frequent infections. She had undergone quite a few tests and rounds of powerful antibiotics without a diagnosis and, still, the recurrent signs and symptoms of an infection persisted. Her quality of life had significantly diminished with pain and frustration. I knew something was not right and took a much closer look at her situation to investigate all possibilities. Thinking out of the box, I was able to discover and diagnose her unique condition. When I outlined, on video, exactly what was going on physically to cause her pain, she was greatly relieved, both to be understood and to understand. She subsequently underwent surgery to correct her situation and bring her back to happiness and health. Rethinking medicine—reducing the most complex concepts to their simplest forms—and finding real solutions for my patients is what makes my job worthwhile.