It's a lifetime of experiences, not just formal education and training, that forms a person's values, character, and personality. Most medical websites focus solely on a doctor's professional biography, but I wanted to share some of my personal story with you in the hope that it sheds some light on my philosophy of care and the values I bring with me to the clinic and procedure suite every day.
I was born into a large family about 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia, PA. What is now suburban Philadelphia was then a collection of small towns and countryside, small communities that were still very much a part of America's manufacturing economy. I remember the sound of the steam hammer at the steel mill echoing through the town from morning to afternoon. Family life was centered around my grandparent's house. My grandfather, Dewitt Dabback, was a family doctor in one of those small towns. His practice was made up of everyone in the community: men, women, children, neonates, centenarians, the healthy, and the very sick. He delivered over 1000 babies, performed minor surgeries, and was perpetually "on call". He knew everyone in town and everyone in town knew him. His warmth, sense of humor, compassion, and empathy made him a beloved member of the community. He was the biggest role model of my life.
My grandmother contracted polio in 1942, when she was 16 years old. She spent the next year and a half of her life in the hospital, much of it in an ‘iron-lung’ ventilator. One evening, shortly after her diagnosis, her parents were told that she wouldn't live through the night, but she did. Months later she was told repeatedly that she would never walk again, but with courage, inner strength, and perseverance, she learned to walk with crutches. She went on to attend college, raise four children, travel the world, and manage my grandfather's medical practice for 30 years. She lived life so fully that it didn't occur to me until I was a teenager that she had a disability.
I realize now that their early influences on my life has formed me into the person I am today. Watching my grandfather interact with his patients and others in the community, I learned the importance of empathy and compassion. After he retired, he told me that the most important thing he did as a physician was to listen to his patients. Clinical expertise is certainly important, but it's only through listening and truly hearing the patient's story that the best care can be delivered to the patient. A mentor I met several years later during my fellowship training in Boston called it having a "therapeutic ear". Hearing my patient's stories is one of the great joys of practicing medicine and I try to incorporate a "therapeutic ear" into my clinic visits as much as possible ever day.
My grandmother taught me the importance of perseverance, resilience, and hope when faced with what seems to be an insurmountable challenge. Chronic illness affects all aspects of one's life: body, soul, and mind. It's easy to be overwhelmed by a medical condition, and I see this often in my patients. It's important to learn that life can be lived fully even while carrying the burden of chronic pain, and I try to instill a sense of hope in my patients that they will be able to overcome their challenges and live a beautiful life.
Today, I love my chosen specialty of pain medicine and am excited to be able to offer cutting-edge pain therapies with the compassion and empathy that patients deserve. When I'm not in the office, I like to spend my time with my fiancé exploring the food scene in Washington, DC, listening to classical music and jazz, or cooking. We currently live in Adams Morgan with our Australian Labradoodle "Tuohy". Gratuitious puppy photos below.