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Medicine, It's in the Family

December 7, 2020
For some physicians at GBMC, a love of medicine runs as deep in the familial veins as brown eyes or a knack for cooking. GBMC is home to several physicians who have inspired their son or daughter to become not just doctors, but doctors at GBMC.

"I went to Oregon for medical school, but my intention was always to work with my dad, which I thought would be the coolest thing," Alex Aversano, a second-year internal medicine resident at GBMC, said. "He was at GBMC for the longest time, so I came back to my first choice for residency, which was GBMC."

Alex and Tom Aversano at GBMC's annual Father's Day 5K
Alex and Tom Aversano at GBMC's annual Father's Day 5K
Alex's father, Dr. Tom Aversano, is a cardiologist for the Johns Hopkins cardiology program at GBMC. His wife, Alex's mother, passed away from cancer when Alex was 10 years old. As a single dad and, at the time, an interventional cardiologist, when emergency procedures came up in the middle of the night, Alex joined his father at Hopkins, watching from the catherization lab monitoring room.

Tom remembers joining his own father on hospital visits. Office practice was a little different because Tom's father, Alex's grandfather, practiced in the family home.

"It was the old days of medicine. We lived in an old Italian neighborhood in Rochester, New York and my father was the local doctor. My mother, who was actually a linguist and a pharmacist, worked in his office," Tom said. "We lived in a big house. My grandfather was a pharmacist and the pharmacy was in the same house as our home and my dad's office."

Dr. Lawson Grumbine, an ophthalmologist at GBMC, can also trace his motivation to pursue a career in medicine back two generations. His grandfather was an OB/GYN in the Catonsville area for many years.

"I grew up seeing firsthand what a rewarding career being a physician can be," Lawson said. "I always thought it would be a great opportunity to have a career that was exciting, cerebral, and helped my community.”

Lawson, as an intern, rotating with his father, Bing Grumbine
Lawson, as an intern, rotating with his father, Bing Grumbine
Lawson's father, Dr. Francis "Bing" Grumbine, is a GYN oncologist at GBMC, and he remembers his father always heading to the hospital to check on patients.

"When you are a kid, you don't really understand what that means," Lawson said. "Now, as a practicing physician, I realize that all of those trips into the hospital were about his dedication to his patients. I am reminded of this as I meet providers and other staff around the hospital who tell me about the excellent care my dad has provided to patients over the decades. This is very inspirational to me to try to be the same kind of physician."

Lawson's sister, Brooke, who is a nurse at GBMC, also remembers their father being gone frequently during their childhood. Even though it was difficult to comprehend as a child, she agreed with Lawson that now, being in the profession, she understands the dedication and sacrifice it took just to be there for patients.

"Working here with dad has made me realize that all of the sacrifices he made with our family were worth it because they were all for his patients," Brooke said. "I sometimes have the opportunity to care of my father's patients, which was one of the things that drew me to Unit 48. Having the chance to watch Dad at work and see him interact with patients as well as staff has been one of the greatest privileges of my life."

Alex, Lawson, and Brooke aren't the only ones whose childhoods revolved around their father's patients. Dr. Christine Helou, a minimally-invasive GYN surgeon at GBMC, also remembers attending "Take Your Child to Work" days at her now-employer with her father, neonatologist Dr. Sabah Helou. She fondly recalls the annual NICU celebrations she attended with her father, where she heard stories from families of the impact he had on their lives.

"I really wanted to like something else besides medicine," Christine joked. "I really tried. In undergrad, I was in the school of foreign service. I did global health and basic science research, and there was nothing else."

She was drawn to medicine because of her dad.

"It was definitely watching my dad growing up, so devoted to his patients, on-call, going in at all hours of the night," Christine said.

George and Katie Duncan
George and Katie Duncan
Ophthalmologist Dr. Katie Duncan watched, not one, but both parents commit their lives to medicine. It was witnessing and making a difference with her father, ophthalmologist Dr. George Duncan, and her mother, breast surgeon Dr. Sheri Slezak, that drove Katie to pursue her own medical career.

"Growing up, I always had an appreciation for the difference they were able to make for some of their patients," Katie said. "They’ve both taken me on medical mission trips to Africa and Honduras and I’ve gotten to see the things they can do. That definitely inspired me to pursue medicine."

It's not just children being inspired by their parents.

"I pursued a medical career because I thought it would be challenging and an opportunity to serve," George said. "Having Katie in my practice has reinvigorated my love of the practice now, in the later stages of my career."

What makes her/him a good doctor?

Katie Duncan, MD
"My parents both really enjoy helping others. Their motivation in being physicians is to make a difference in other people’s lives and they truly enjoy getting to do something for somebody else. I’ve always admired their commitment to helping people in any way they can. And I think that’s what makes them really good physicians."

George Duncan, MD
"She's very bright. She's very empathic, hardworking and her outstanding talent is that she communicates wonderfully with the patients, all the best things that a doctor can do."

Christine Helou, MD
"His biggest focus, besides providing excellent care, is educating the patient and their family about the diagnosis and treatment plan. He spends hours with NICU parents, ensuring they understand what's going on and that they are actively involved in the plan of care. I've also learned from him that everyone on your team is vital and has a role to play to provide the best care for the patient."

Sabah Helou, MD
"What makes Christine a great physician is that she cares greatly about her patients and she’ll do whatever it takes to deliver the best possible care. Also, she’s very thorough and doesn’t cut corners and will always put her patient's health above everything else."

Alex Aversano, MD
"He taught me everything I know. He is the person who taught me that you don't go home until the job is done, so, if the patient needs you, you don't leave the hospital. The way he talked to the patients, always with kindness, always looking to help them understand, there was no one who worked harder and went above and beyond, not just to do what's requested, but completely take care of the person and that's what he showed me how to do.”

Tom Aversano, MD
"Alex is a very compassionate, empathetic person and he has always, in many different ways, wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself. Medicine is the thing that's bigger than him. He also has incredible interpersonal skills with patients and is able to talk to anybody."

Lawson Grumbine, MD
"My father is a great physician because, in addition to being a talented surgeon, he has the utmost dedication to his patients."

Brooke Grumbine, RN
"What makes my father a great physician is the way he treats people. He, of course, has impeccable training and keeps up with the most current technologies in his field. He has a lifetime of knowledge that he brings to each case. While these attributes are critical to success as a surgeon, I believe that it's dad's personality that makes him truly special. He makes everyone he meets feel seen and heard, whether it's his patient or the unit secretary. He acknowledges each person and takes the time to inquire about how they're doing. He's genuine and sincere, and people can feel that from him."

Bing Grumbine, MD
"I am their father so I, of course, am a little prejudiced; however, both Lawson and Brooke are empathetic people and care deeply about their chosen professions. They go the extra mile for their patients, enjoy their work and know they are making a difference. At the end of a 12-hour shift, Brooke is exhausted but rejuvenates and is ready to go the next day to do the best for the patients she is taking care of. She also enjoys the science involved in her patients' illnesses while Lawson loves his work and the people he works with. He enjoys teaching and training the residents and the administrative work he is involved with."
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