Why I Became a Doctor
On 2/15/17, the day after Valentine's, the world lost a great man and an amazing doctor, Medhat El-Amir, MD.
There are not many people in Jersey City and Hudson County who don't know the name, Medhat El-Amir, MD.
My first interactions were not so positive to say the least. He was our family doctor and my first memories of him are full of sick child visits and getting needles/vaccines. Oh how many times I left his office with tears in my eyes and a lollipop in my mouth (cherry flavor by the way) as a child.
As I grew up, I excelled academically. My dad would brag to him during his medical checkups and he reached out to me one day. He called my house and asked if I would come do my high school valedictorian speech for the Egyptian Medical Society. I accepted the invitation and to my surprise, he proudly presented me with the Academic Achievement Award of the year as well. That's how he was, if he believed in you, he pushed and pushed for you without your knowledge. He always was supporting me in the background without any claim. That's a characteristic lacking in most people. When somebody does something for you these days, they want you to know that they did this great deed for you. They don't make them like Dr. El-Amir anymore.
I developed multiple recurrent abdominal tumors at age 13 that required multiple surgeries throughout my life. He coordinated my care as if a maestro conducting the orchestra, he made sure every specialist and surgeon had a plan of care and that he approved of that plan, the actions of a true primary care doctor. After each and every surgery, I got a phone call from him, "I told you this was nothing, your dad and mom need you to stick around and make them proud, keep fighting for them". Those phone calls continued even till age 31, my last surgery.
Time progressed, I went to college, didn't see him for some time.
I finished college and kind of had a "what now?" moment. I was in the right place at the right time and helped a friend start a trading firm on Wall street at the American Stock Exchange. I did that for a little over a year and "911" happened. It was then that he touched my life again. I stopped by his office and just interrupted him in the middle of seeing his usual 100 patients a day and he didn't even think twice to bring me to the back office and have a talk....it went something like this:
"Stop wasting your time trying to get rich ... help people ... you have to make a difference in the world. Go take the MCAT, better yet teach an MCAT course so that you do very well on the exam. Become a doctor, I don't care what kind, just use your brain to help people, I promise that you won't be poor, you may not be as rich as your Wall street friends, but you won't be poor."
Those words went very far with me.
Little did I know that my father had seen him the day before and told him that I was a little lost in choosing my career.
I shadowed him in the office for the next few months whenever I could, spending maybe 30 + hours with him a week. Anybody who knew him, knew that he worked 100 + hours a week. I used to finish my day job and still get 4 hours in the office with him till he finished at 8-9 p.m.
He wrote me a letter of recommendation as well.
What I saw was amazing. He had this "old world" style of caring and just spending time with each patient regardless of their issue. He cared for each patient as if they were his family members. He also had this amazing talent of spending 15 minutes with patients sometimes and making them feel that he spent an hour with them.
I have yet to master that skill, if ever... It was reminiscent of a Jedi master as a doctor.
He treated rich, poor, insured, uninsured, those who could pay, and those who couldn't afford to ride the bus to even get to his office. He didn't care. He wasn't worried about getting rich, he knew he wasn't poor.
That's what I want people to remember the most about this great man, how he defined the Hippocratic Oath and the true definition of what being a doctor entails.
His patients loved him, they appreciated the care and attention, most of all ... they appreciated becoming healthier under his care.
He truly, truly, cared about his patients.
Any specialist who has been referred a patient by Dr. El-Amir knows, he would not rest until he knew exactly what the plan was and how the patient was going to get better from them. Seriously, he was so involved in the care of his patients, he genuinely cared for them. Look how he handled my care.
I went on to rock my MCAT, taught physics and chemistry, got into medical school (of course he called the dean of Drexel University College of Medicine once he found out that I really liked that school). Went on to do well on boards, matched an Orthopedic Surgery Residency in NYC, graduated from fellowship, and landed a job locally in Jersey City.
I stopped by his office, now almost 11 years later, and you would think that I was there to shadow him again. Nothing changed. His eyes opened up wide with joy and he couldn't believe that I was practicing in Jersey City. He even called his brother, Mazhar, to tell him while I was there.
Three years later, it was my turn to take care of him, he became my patient. Years of mileage on diabetic feet wore him down and he developed Charcot with multiple stress fractures. I argued with him for months to let me treat him appropriately with casting and possibly surgery but all I got in return was: "How do you want me to care for my patients like that?".
On 2/15/14, the day after Valentine's, Medhat El-Amir, MD had a cardiac arrest in his Uber on the way to his appointment at my office. I marked him down as a "no show".
The world lost a great man.
My prayers are with his family.
YASER EL-GAZZAR, MD
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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