When Abraham Chachoua, MD, walks into a patient’s room, he stays for a while. His patients are an extension of his family, and he loves to tell funny stories about his life and make them laugh. “Being a doctor is more than just prescribing medication,” says Dr. Chachoua, who learned this lesson early on.
Dr. Chachoua’s father, a primary care physician, died of multiple myeloma many years ago when he and his family lived in Australia. Visiting his father during his final days in the hospital, he observed how the oncologist never entered the room or sat down to talk to his father. “I felt that if I ever got through medical school, I would try to do better.”
Now an oncologist himself and director of outpatient clinical services at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, Dr. Chachoua has worked for 40 years in medicine. All those years of experience taught him how to be a really good doctor. Or at least that’s what he believed, until he realized he wasn’t done learning yet.
A few years ago, while he was busy looking after people with cancer, Dr. Chachoua became one himself—he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. For the first time, he found himself on the other side, which was an eye-opening experience in many ways.
“I realized that we need to be very straightforward with patients about what to expect after recovery. I wasn’t prepared,” says Dr. Chachoua in this episode of Vital Signs, discussing the physical and emotional effects of cancer treatment and the lessons he learned from it.
“My experience has taught me to be a better doctor than I was,” he says. “I thought I was pretty good before, but now I’m better.”