Hobbies and Interests
--Playing soccer on Saturday mornings
--Playing tennis with my 18 year old son (who enjoys nothing more than beating his dad)
--Movies. I thoroughly enjoy going to the movies.
--Practicing the piano. I no longer take lessons but have found YouTube invaluable at helping me really learn a piece well. My most recent big accomplishment was learning Chopin’s Nocturne #1. This, along with Schubert’s Impromptu in G flat opus 90 #3 are my two favorite pieces I have ever learned. An aside, the first time I heard the Schubert piece was during the movie Gattaca. I found it so beautiful I told myself I had to learn it.
--Travel. My favorite places? I really have enjoyed my visits to Australia. It is so beautiful and the people are so friendly. A recent favorite vacation was to Cuba followed by Cartagena. I had worked with a young lady from Havana and she helped me learn so much about this fascinating place. And if you ever just need a vacation…to truly feel at peace…Hawaii is probably the best.
McKinley Elementary school—San Francisco, California
Corbett Elementary school—San Francisco, California
Indianola Elementary school—Columbus, Ohio
Malloch Elementary school—Fresno California
Tenaya Middle school—Fresno, California
Edison High school—Fresno, California
Bullard High school—Fresno, California
United World College—Montezuma, New Mexico
University of California, Davis—Davis, California
University of Melbourne—Melbourne, Australia
University of San Francisco—San Francisco, California
(one month at the University of Toronto on a scholarship)
University of California, Davis—Davis, California for my 3 year family practice residency
International Baccalaureate from United World College
Bachelor of Science from University of California, Davis
Doctor of Medicine from University of California, San Francisco
Family Practice Residency from U.C. Davis
Personal / Memberships
Present Occupation: Family Practice physician
Family: Myself and my son, Ryan who just graduated high school. He will be attending University of Arizona in the fall to study business accounting.
I hold memberships in these organizations:
--I’m on the board of Sutter Independent Physicians
--I was formerly with the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters program in Sacramento
--Sacramento Adult Soccer League
Who are some of your favorite authors (for both pleasure and within your genre)?
John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks, Dan Brown, Barbara Kingsolver, Jodi Picoult, Malcolm Gladwell. And a book I especially liked within my genre is Extreme Measures by Jessica Nutik Zitter
What are your favorite books? I have so many. And, no particular order.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
Who are some people I care deeply about?
I presume everyone says family. I am no different. My parents, my sister and her family provide a reason for me…for everything. I will always need their love. My son just graduated high school May 2021 and I’m so very proud of him. He has become a wonderful, incredibly kind young man. I also have my work family. That’s one nice thing about being in private practice, you get to choose with whom you work. Friends, I will argue I don’t have a tremendous number, but they are the kind that will always have your back. Lastly, I can’t leave out my patients. They provide me with my joy. I have saved every thank you letter.
What do you collect?
Money. I’m not kidding. It started as a coin collection. It has morphed into currency from around the world. I’m fascinated by the history, the colors…what was the life like of the person who held that 10 Million Deutsch Mark note from 1923? They are also reminders of places I’ve visited or people I’ve come to know.
What are you favorite food and drinks?
Basically, if a child would like it, then so will I. My tastes never devolved to the adult palate. I’d rather have a Samurai burger and onion rings at Red Robin than almost anything else. Having said that, I do like a good ribeye steak. And a meal isn’t a complete meal without a dessert. So many will do. A pie with pretty much any berry or peach. Bread pudding. And frankly anything chocolate.
Drinks are pretty much the same. I’d rather have root beer than a microbrew. And I’d rather have juice than wine.
So difficult to choose just one. If I had to crown a winner, I think I would say The Shawshank Redemption (yes, I mentioned it in my book). I also feel that Schindler’s List is another near perfect movie. What so many found depressing, I found uplifting. A testament to what any one person can achieve. Others on my short list would include The Breakfast Club, Gattaca and Casablanca.
I think I have liked to be entertained and so comedies lead the list: Seinfeld, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, All in the Family. And, I know I sound like my dad when I say I also loved Mash. But I have grown to love Netflix. My favorite shows so far would be La Casa De Papel (The Money Heist) and Breaking Bad.
What are your favorite genres of music/ artists?
I would say that I like Soft Rock the most. Best concert I ever went to occurred on my birthday one year—Billy Joel and Elton John together. I also like classical music and can remember often sitting in line in San Francisco. I would study all day (I was in medical school) and then get a cheap seat for the evening and watch someone like Andre Watts play Brahms 2nd piano concerto.
Who are your favorite influential figures?
The correct answer would be my patients. Over time I have learned about kindness, love, despair through the lives of countless men and women who allowed me into their lives. One time I recall quite vividly. A husband came in with the paramedics pumping on his chest while he was being wheeled in on the gurney. His wife trailed behind, moments later with an anguish that can’t be described. I recall thinking, I have never felt a love so profound.
What is your favorite way to spend your weekend?
There are endless variations of this one. I tend to prefer spur of the moment. If I just need to relax I might read or watch sports. But, for it to be a great weekend, I would need to be outside. Perhaps hiking, riding a bike, walking along the river. Being with family is always a treat as well.
Do you have any pets? What are their names?
His name is Bezoar. He was supposed to be a black lab/ Shar Pei mix. Seemed quite unusual. But, he has been a great companion. Though he will only come after he has decided there is nothing else more interesting going on.
Do you like animals?
Very much so. I loved the books All Creatures Great and Small growing up and decided I wished to be a vet. I even worked with a vet in New Mexico for a while. Though I have only owned dogs, I must say that a cat purring on you is a wonderful feeling.
What are some of your favorite possessions/ things?
As mentioned, my money collection, it’s beautiful and historically interesting. I joke that I don’t have homeowners insurance as the only thing I care about losing is my Kawai grand piano. I figure it would take a pretty bold (and strong) thief to leave the house with my prized possession. Though recently I acquired some signed Ansel Adams photos. I grew up going to Yosemite and these photographs remind me of my special place.
I was always frustrated growing up around holiday time because it was always just the four of us; My parents, my sister and myself. We didn’t have relatives to visit because they were too far away. My mother is from England and my father from Trinidad and Tobago. The benefits, however, are that we remain very close. My sister will always be my best friend.
Also, I love to travel and it is nice to have relatives not only in those countries, but Uncles in Canada and Australia.
I think this unusual mix also allowed me to have understandings of so many cultures. Perhaps because I never felt I belonged to any specific culture. In fact, this leads me to one of my biggest frustrations when I was younger. On every test/ form you have to fill out ONE box as to who you were. Black/ White/ Hispanic/ Asian. I hated having to choose. It seemed I was ignoring one of my parents in doing so. And the “other” box seemed somehow demoralizing.
How do I like to spend my free time?
I love movies. I prefer going to the theater rather than sitting on my couch. When you’re at the theater you are completely engrossed, concentration at it’s peak. And, there is a communal sense of emotions that are felt. Comedies and horror movies become so much more engrossing.
Saturday morning is one of the highlights of my week. I play soccer with a group of guys locally. I can do anything for exercise, but playing soccer is so much more enjoyable for me. I could feel invigorated after a 3 mile run, but I am absolutely giddy if I happen to score a goal.
What is your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. It’s all about being together with family. We have a great time together. And my family loves to play cards. I grew up playing Canasta. But we will play just about anything; Hearts, Spades, Cribbage, Rummy. We will have epic, hours long games.
The other thing about Thanksgiving is that it is about cooperation. There is so much to be done and there’s something nice about everyone helping each other out. Oh, and there’s also football, walking dogs, movies and tons of desserts.
What are your favorite words and phrases?
I can’t say I’m above stealing other peoples’ lines. It was hard not to say “inconceivable” after watching A Princess Bride. Or “Newman!” after watching an episode of Seinfeld. I’ve learned that “Dang it!” is a common part of my vocabulary. I do often lead a sentence off with “So.” “So, how can I help you today?” would be a common refrain at the office. I pretty much never use profanity. O.k. sometimes when playing sports, but only at myself.
There are only a couple of things I like to shop for Music and Books. I can spend hours in a bookstore. Having Apple music does take some of the fun out of shopping for music. You can have whatever you want, whenever you want it. My joy tends to now be if I can introduce somebody to music they’ve never heard of but I get them to fall in love with it. It’s hard not to fall in love with Habib Koite’s Batoumambe. The rhythms, the clean guitar, those marimbas!!
Not only are both my parents foreign, but I was born in Canada. And then…I went to an international boarding school when I was sixteen. Yes, I became one of the first ones to study the International Baccalaureate before it became popular. I began to travel everywhere I could becoming fascinated learning about other cultures. The first time I went to London on my own I was perhaps seventeen. I had worked all summer to pay for my airfare. Then, I would stay with friends or relatives of the international school. Art galleries, theater, symphony halls, churches, hiking, I wanted it all. Couldn’t get enough. It seemed I did this year after year going all over Europe.
In college, I decided to study a year abroad at Melbourne University. Another spectacularly interesting experience.
Finally, during the last real summer of my life (between first and second year of medical school), I went to Honduras and Nicaragua for two months to help with my Spanish and work with a local physician. It was there I delivered a baby for the first time.
Have I stopped traveling? Definitely not. Recent trips were to see the Northern Lights in Yellowknife, Canada, the beautiful parks of Utah (Bryce and Zion) and then to visit Cape Town, South Africa. It’s just now my trips are much shorter as I can’t abandon my practice for any length of time.
Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Definitely a morning person. Always have been. I really don’t need an alarm clock. Sleeping in for me is 7:00 a.m. Morning just always seems to be the best time of the day. I like the quiet especially when you go outdoors early. And, it’s when I get my most effective work done.
Do you have a hidden talent?
The simple answer is no. The only thing I can think of is regarding my vision—it’s terrible. If there is ever a competition who has the worst eyes, I have never lost. Notwithstanding those who are actually blind, I am the most nearsighted person ever. But, I learned, this allows actually great magnification when you can see up close. Thus, my talent…I found out from a friend in Australia that severe myopes can resolve incredibly tiny print better than anyone else. And, it was true. I guess that’s what you get when your vision is as bad as -16 and -18.
Top three writing tips?
A writing tip that I read once from Roald Dahl definitely helped me and I will pass it along. Stop when the going is good. If you complete an idea, a chapter, then when you restart you don’t know where to go. But, if you stop…it’s so much easier to restart.
As mentioned, I am a morning person. I can’t tell you how many ideas came to me between three and four in the morning. What I would write at that hour may not have been good prose, but the ideas were often my best. Lastly, I would say, focus on the idea. Just get it down. Don’t waste the time on crafting the best sentence as possible. That’s what editing is for.
What inspires you to write?
I share my thoughts and ideas with patients one-on-one every day. What I have found is that there are so many ideas I wish to share. And I do feel I have something unique to share—a timeline perspective on health. What I have realized is that we tend to be myopic and only understand our very near circumstances. It is difficult to imagine how habits today might affect you ten years later.
What news sources or websites do you read regularly? One thing I have said for a long time but emphasized with the pandemic is, ‘read the news, don’t listen to it.’ I feel that there is far too much effort made by television to sway viewers with arguments that often have few facts. I have tended to turn to the magazines The Week and The Economist (when I am particularly ready for a challenge). Both seem to provide multiple points of view. I’m also trying to learn Spanish and I often listen to News in Slow Spanish while walking to work. I like hearing the perspective from Spain which similarly seems less biased.
Where do you write?
I’m old-fashioned. Though some of my middle of the night ideas were put straight down on my bedroom computer. Much of what I wrote was pen and paper on a legal pad in random locations. Often curled up on a couch deep within my own world.
Would I rather go to the mountains or the beach?
The mountains for sure; except when I’m on a beach.
Are you more social or more introverted?
I don’t think I have ever fully grown out of being a very quiet, introverted child. Having said that, I believe anyone who met me now would see the confidence that has come with years of working in the hospital and my private clinic.
Do you have a favorite color?
Even when I was very young I would answer this question with silver. The typical response is that it isn’t really a color. I disagree. Specifically, I like the quicksilver look that is so shiny it seems to be alive. Once when I was visiting Chicago, locals kept telling me that I should see ‘the Bean.’ When I finally went I understood why. It is magical. And yes, it is very, very silver.
Coffee or tea?
Orange juice without a doubt. As mentioned, I have the taste buds of a child. The only way to enjoy coffee is with enough chocolate and sugar it makes it nearly syrup. And tea, little better in my opinion. To help me pay for college I worked two summers as a truck driver hauling tomatoes up and down Interstate 5. And though it was enjoyable to stride into the ‘truckers only’ parts of the diner, I never could get into the habit of coffee that seemed the required drink of those who drove all through the night.
What are your reading pet peeves?
Loaning a book and having it returned with dog eared pages. As for content, I would say when the conclusion is reached long before the end. Just wrap it up already!
What’s your favorite genre to read?
Dramas. Books, fictional or not, that bring characters off the page. Books that allow you to believe you are in the world inhabited by the protagonist.
What are some things you would never say?
--“You’re not going to believe this, but I was visited by an alien last night”
--“I’ve had a hard week, I think I’m going to get myself a pedicure”
--“For my New Years’ resolution, I’ve decided to become a vegan”
Who are some people with whom you would never want to interact?
Do you have any other books in the works?
I do. It similarly has a bit of a medical theme, but it is set in the future.
What are some of your writing goals?
I would like to get to a point where I can read something I wrote and say, that was written well. I find that good writing reads effortlessly. It creates moods and brings places and characters to life. In short, good writing expands the world of the reader. I recall beginning the English Patient and finding the writing transcendent. The story almost became secondary for me. I know that I will never become that good, just as I realize I will never be as good a pianist as Valentina Lisitsa. But I shall always strive.
Tell me a bit about your medical career:
My medical career began quite late. I had worked with a veterinarian in New Mexico for a couple years and absolutely loved it. I went to U. C. Davis (the only Vet school in California) with the goal of becoming a veterinarian. And then…life changed. I did my junior year abroad at the University of Melbourne where they go straight from high school to medical school. I wished to continue to study science while there and somehow ended up with their third year medical school class. I recall working with cadavers and thinking how incredibly complex is the human body. It wasn’t just a challenge, it was an appreciation that led me to pursue medicine as a career.
As mentioned, I was quite late deciding as I returned a senior. So I didn’t actually apply until after I had graduated Davis. I didn’t expect to get in but realized I would regret not trying. So I worked on my application during downtimes in the tomato fields while I was truck driving.
Medical school was a daunting experience. But my first day I will never forget. The professor said sternly, “Do you know what happens if you fail an exam here?” Silence. “We give it to you again. And again. Until you pass. Our only goal is to ensure you know the information.” This was tremendously uplifting. Until third year. That was when we began working on real patients and it seemed the consequences were so high. Yet, when you first start to realize that you made a positive difference in someone’s life, nothing is more fulfilling. It was during my third year that I delivered approximately 100 babies—that never ceases to be the most incredible feeling in the world.
I chose family practice because of my time in Nicaragua. I shared a small living space with the local doctor. At any time, day or night he might get called back to the clinic. A rap on the door saying, “doctor, doctor!” I realized that if I were a specialist, such as a hematologist or orthopedist, I would most likely not be helpful. Yet this local doctor seemed to be able to do anything. That’s when I decided. To be a family practice physician fulfilled my idea of what it means to be a doctor.
Do you have any medical stories that we could possibly use other than the ones from your book you’d like us to know about?
Wow. This is a difficult one. There are so many stories. I’ll just give the first one that comes to mind.
It’s not uncommon for me to take out a lipoma. Typically, they are small, about the size of a grape, up to the size of an apricot. One day, a truck driver who didn’t have medical insurance asked me to remove her lipoma. It was very large, bigger than my entire hand and located on her left flank. I am not a surgeon, I just use local anesthesia. And I told her, it was just too large, she really needs to have this done under anesthesia by a surgeon. She begged me saying it was just not possible, she could never afford thousands of dollars to get it done. I had known her for probably 15 years, she was going to be moving to Florida and didn’t expect to have insurance there either. Finally I relented and said I would try. My initial incision was quite long, probably about 8 centimeters. But, it wasn’t long enough. I had to extend because the mass was actually quite deep. After probably half an hour I cut out a large chunk of the mass and then….there was more. I repeated this procedure and the same thing happened. This lipoma was like an iceberg—much larger than I had anticipated. Of course there was bleeding. And, as time marched on I kept telling myself this was a bad idea. By the time I had got all of it out, I would estimate it was the size of a grapefruit. I stitched her closed and just was thankful that I didn’t do any obvious harm. The next time I heard from her was a card post marked from Florida. She had to thank me and then tease me about her bruise. She said the bruising covered much of her lower back and buttock and took almost a month to go away. About a year later she moved back to California and became my patient again. Literally every time I see her she reminds me of that procedure.
When did you start playing soccer?
We had not long moved from Ohio to California. I didn’t have many friends and so my parents encouraged me to play with a nearby neighbor. But, on the weekends, he would be playing soccer. I started going to his games and soon I joined the team. I was ten at the time.
Why play soccer in the future?
Such a strange question. It is such a team sport. At any point with or without the ball you are thinking. And, there is nothing like it for exercise. I do realize I am now one of the oldest out there. I certainly can’t run as fast as the young guys anymore. But, I hope to play for a few more years.
How long have you been playing piano?
I started when I was ten and took lessons until I left home at sixteen. I did take lessons again in my early thirties for a few years. I desperately wanted to learn the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. That was ridiculously ambitious. It took me about a year to learn (I can be quite stubborn). I never played it well.
Favorite song? Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
Best song to hear on really good speakers? 1st Rain/ Cry of Faith by Ottmar Liebert
Happiness? It is way underrated as a goal for health. Physicians will speak endlessly about heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol, etc. They will extol the benefits of a good diet, regular exercise. But, how often does one point out that happiness should be a primary goal as well? I feel that it is underrecognized in its importance. Those who are happy tend to live more healthy lives. E.g. depressed people are far less likely to exercise than those with energy and vigor.
I tend to be a happy person. I’ve decided it takes far more energy and effort to be angry or hold a grudge. Though I feel that a great deal of happiness is in our control, I recognize there are hormonal and chemical aspects that can make it more difficult. Nonetheless, I often use the following example from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption.
The scene: Middle of summer in a prison. About ten men are chosen to spend all day putting hot tar on top of a roof. After all of this effort in the baking sun with that horrible smell, they are given ONE beer for compensation. It was one of the best days of their lives.
I would venture to say if you asked pretty much anyone to work all day in the summer heat tarring a building and for compensation they would receive only one beer; you would get absolutely no one to do the job. So what made these men so happy? In exploring the answer to this question, I think it helps us realize that happiness can be a learned skill. Something we should strive for.
The United World College: The best two years of my life. I attended the school from ages sixteen to eighteen, 1983 to 1985. It is a very small boarding school. Only two hundred students. But from approximately eighty different countries. Essentially we were all foreigners interacting with each other and learning what made us similar—despite different cultures and language. As I mentioned, I always felt like an ‘other’ being from a mixed background. For the first time in my life, that didn’t matter at all. And I felt completely accepted. The academics were incredibly rigorous and I went from being the top of my class to…well, let’s just say I became quite average. Located in the mountains of New Mexico, the school features a stunning castle, hot springs and amazing landscapes. It was at this school I learned about who I was as a person, as an American—the good and the bad. If anything happened in the world, there was someone down the hall who was from that country. At mealtimes you could talk with them and get their opinion. My roommate was from Burundi and one of his best friends was from Rwanda. Hours they would spend together in my room speaking Kinyarwanda. So when the genocide happened in 1994 I personally felt this more than anyone else I know.
But this was not an isolated incident. We had students from Russia during the height of the Cold War. A student from Gaza and a few from Israel. Students from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland during Apartheid. It was where I first heard of Nelson Mandela.
Yet we were not ambassadors. We were just young men and women. We didn’t have the agendas and prejudices of adults. It’s a school that truly touched my life. Completing those two years is my proudest achievement. It made me who I am.