When did you decide to become a surgeon?
In sixth grade, we went around and said what we wanted to be. I knew I was going to be a surgeon, not just a doctor, but a surgeon. The young man in front of me in class decided he was going to be a surgeon. I was devastated because the teacher said, “We can’t repeat.” So, I said I would be a tennis player, but I knew in my heart I was going to be a surgeon. Today, he’s not a surgeon, and I’m not a tennis player, so I guess my heart held true.
As a general surgeon, you cover a lot of areas.
I specialize in a variety of other fields in addition to general surgery such as trauma. I also have special interests in esophageal cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer and heavy emphasis on breast cancer. I am fortunate to do many fields within the realm of general surgery without specializing in just one specific area.
You also work with many of the comprehensive teams for cancer at Sanford.
Our comprehensive approach allows us to bring together so many different specialties. We treat the cancer based on how it affects the individual. Every individual’s cancer is unique to that person. If we recognize that rather than throwing out a general group treatment for everybody, we can tailor the treatment to each individual based on their tumor. It makes a world of difference.
You didn’t become a tennis player, but any other ideas of careers you might have pursued other than medicine?
I probably would have been a musician. Many of my colleagues in medicine are musicians. Music does a lot with healing and personal relaxation. I helped found the band DNR, which performs rock ‘n roll and 1970s music.
What else do you like to do in your spare time?
I do as much as I can with my family. They are extremely understanding with my life and my practice. They celebrate with me when I have a good outcome, and I am fortunate to say we have a lot of good outcomes. I am also infatuated with saltwater fish. I have a giant pond in my backyard with Koi. It reminds me of my childhood. I also have martin houses, one of which my father built. The return of martins every year to me is exciting. I have gone from being the proud owner, or kind of a landlord, of a pair of martins to having almost 60!
What is your philosophy of care?
I never forget the patient chose me to be their doctor. To me that’s an honor and I never take it lightly. When they get me, they get 100 percent. They get everything I know to make them better.