Finest Doctors 2019: Memorable Moments
We asked 8 doctors to share with readers a memorable day or experience in their medical careers.
Dr. Veronica Schimp
Chief of Gynecological Oncology
Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center
Practicing medicine is a great privilege. There is a tremendous sense of responsibility and awe to be involved in a patient’s care practicing robotic surgery and other advanced procedures, prescribing chemotherapy, and participating in clinical trials. It’s amazing to see how quickly medicine has advanced, especially when I recall the journey of one of my patients originally diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986, while in her 20s. After several surgeries and multiple therapies, she developed cancer again earlier this year. We tried everything. Nothing seemed to work. Her insurance would not approve a novel therapy that held promise for her so we turned to the pharmaceutical company for help. After just a few months on this therapy, her disease is almost gone and it brings me to tears that she has lived long enough to see this advanced treatment. It is the kind of patient outcome that drives me to continue on my path.
Dr. Fouad Hajjar
Medical Director of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology
AdventHealth for Children
AdventHealth Medical Group
I had the honor and pleasure of attending a very special wedding in May of this year. Two young people who met in my office as little children when they were both being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia were married in a joyous celebration. As my patients, they spent years supporting each other through extensive chemotherapy and celebrating their victories at a camp for kids with cancer. Both are now cancer free, and they continue to be there for each other through life’s challenges as they always have. To see them now as adults and as a married couple is awesome and humbling. It reminds me that my job as a cancer physician is not just about saving lives. It’s about creating a lifetime of memories for our patients and their families.
Dr. Vipin P. Popat
Internal Medicine Physician
Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital
Treating a patient involves more than just being a doctor. It also requires us to draw strength from our spirituality, our humanity, our family and our peers. Recently, a 44-year-old woman with no medical history came to Orlando Health Dr. P. Phillips Hospital with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and dizziness. She had moved three months earlier from New Jersey with her family. In this single visit she was diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, high blood pressure, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, deep vein thrombosis and depression. The mother of four had a life-threatening condition and wasn’t aware of how critically ill she was. I worked closely with the neurologist, nephrologist, hematologist, psychologist and excellent nurses to provide crucial directed care. This case was a reminder of how quickly life could change. It also reminded me of the humbling responsibility of my care and the importance of teamwork. This gives perspective and keeps me motivated to always do my best.
Dr. Nathalie D. McKenzie
Director of Gynecology Oncology Fellowship
AdventHealth Cancer Institute
AdventHealth Medical Group
Without a doubt, my desire to protect women—as well as my own cancer diagnosis—played a role in my decision to care for women with cancer. I have been the patient, the caregiver and the provider, which collectively allows for a unique perspective. What I have learned, though, is that each patient has her own story and no two cancer patients are the same. That is why I place so much importance on individualized and tailored treatment strategies. Recently, I met a young woman diagnosed with cervical cancer for whom traditional surgical treatment would have rendered her infertile. She and I discussed all options as well as novel individualized treatment strategies. Ultimately, I performed a special fertility preserving radical trachelectomy—a procedure that would resect the tumor while preserving much of her ability to conceive. I was delighted to meet her new husband and very much look forward to the next part of their journey.
Dr. Aurelio Duran
Orlando Health Heart Institute
Appreciating the huge honor it is to care for both a patient and their family is the biggest reward for a physician. This was underscored by a recent letter we received about the care we gave over the years to one of our patients with atrial fibrillation, a pacemaker, and heart failure. The letter expressed the cherished memories of birthday parties, graduations, weddings, and the patient being able to walk a daughter down the aisle during her wedding—all once-in-a lifetime events for both the patient and family. It reminded me we are certainly not just a combination of illnesses, not even an individual person. Each of us is so important because of the connections we have, our uniqueness, and we are irreplaceable to those who know us and love us! How satisfying it is to be on teams who strive to give the care to strengthen the connections of life’s moments shared with loved ones.
Dr. Aparna Hernandez
Southwest Internal Medicine
What I love about Internal Medicine is the bond you build with patients and families, many of whom I’ve known for almost all of the 22 years I’ve been in practice. These are the patients who truly give you the gift of trust. I remember, in particular, one such older longstanding patient who would come to see me every three to four months for many years. She passed away recently. Her daughter visited me not long after, bearing a gift in her hands. It was a copy of her mother’s diary. In it was my name and next to that a prayer—asking the Lord to bestow His blessings upon me and guide me in the care of my patients. She wrote this prayer every time she saw me, right next to prayers she wrote for her family members. Today these pages from her diary are a cherished possession on my desk—a humbling reminder of what a privilege it is to touch people’s lives as a physician!
Dr. Patricia Guerrero
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology
AdventHealth Medical Group
Genomics & Personalized Health
One of my memorable patients is a young woman who spent her childhood suffering frightening episodes of fainting. After repeated evaluation, she was diagnosed by clinical and genetic testing with Long QT Syndrome. This is an inheritable genetic disorder that can lead to a fast, chaotic heart rhythm and potentially cause death. She was treated with medications and with a defibrillator, greatly reducing her possibility of death. When she and her husband chose to conceive, they understood there would be the possibility of the child inheriting the same disease. Upon birth, their daughter underwent genetic testing and much to their relief, the parents learned she had not inherited the abnormal gene. They felt so blessed to have this definitive information about their baby’s risk. Along these lines, AdventHealth’s WholeMeFlorida research study is designed to provide participants with information regarding their inheritance of a relatively common genetic disorder that leads to elevated blood cholesterol levels and as a result, a risk of heart attacks at a young age. The opportunity to provide an early diagnosis and prevent the pain and suffering associated with disease is why I am enthused about the field of Genetic and Genomic Medicine.
Dr. Shiva Kalidindi
Division of Emergency Medicine
Department of Pediatrics
Nemours Children’s Hospital
During every ER shift, I tell myself how fortunate I am to have the privilege of caring for acutely ill children. As a pediatrician, I also have the opportunity to help address parents’ concerns. Recently, I took care of a baby with fever and seizure. I could see the worry and anxiety in her parents’ eyes. This is the point at which my dual responsibilities come together. I listen carefully, examine thoroughly, and speak respectfully. While I ensure myself that this child is safe, I am building a relationship of trust and confidence with her parents. They need to know that I will do all the right things to deliver care to the most precious thing in their world—their daughter. When I do these things well, I receive the reward this family gave me—their sincere thanks for taking the time to care and listen. I am blessed to be there for the families that seek our help. It is truly an honor and privilege to serve.