First Person: Surgeon gained inspiration from family emergency

CNJ staff photo: Tony Gutierrez

Dr. Albert Kwan was recently elected president of the New Mexico Medical Society. Born in Hong Kong in 1952, Kwan came to the United States in 1972 to attend college. He graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine in 1983, then served in the Air Force as a flight surgeon during Desert Storm from 1986 to 1993. He has been a surgeon in private practice in Clovis since 1993, and also does primary care medicine.
The Clovis News Journal talked with him about being a doctor and coming to Clovis.

On becoming a doctor
I decided I wanted to go into medicine at the age of 10. I wanted to be a surgeon because my mom required an emergency operation. She was hospitalized at least two weeks. Doctors saved her life. I was so grateful for the surgeons that saved my mom’s life, I decided I wanted to be a surgeon and help people, to take care of people.

On the Air Force
I joined the Air Force in 1986 and separated in 1993. I enjoyed my time in the Air Force. I worked with a group of very dedicated professionals for their work and service to our country. I’m a naturalized citizen. I wanted to pay respect and honor the country that allowed me to become a citizen so I decided to give back and join the Air Force. I’m more patriotic now. (I joined) to thank this nation for providing me the opportunity to be a citizen here and to pursue my dream and way of life.
The beautiful thing about this nation, people can always decide what they want to do. Other countries are more restrictive.

On Desert Storm
I’d prefer not to talk about it.
On family
My daughter, she is doing her surgical residency at the University of California-San Francisco. I got a son (who) just finished pharmacy school from the University of New Mexico. He’ll be moving to California to work as a nuclear pharmacist. I got another son who’s going to nursing school in Southern California. One (son) is a probation officer, one (son) is a musician and the other (son) is going to West Texas A&M for college.

On family’s
reaction to his
life as a doctor
They look at it, that’s the way life is. They understand my ability to take care of the sick people.

On the New Mexico Medical Society
Our job is to try to give an idea, or guidelines, how to make a comprehensive healthcare plan workable and be beneficial to the citizens of New Mexico. Coverage for all New Mexicans should be universal, continuous, portable. No matter where people move, the patient carries that with him. The patient should be able to choose the doctors themselves. The insurance should not dictate where to go.
Insurance companies have a panel of who’s allowed. This plan is saying you can’t do that. Some governing bodies should be taking care of the administration of this health plan.
On being a doctor
It’s stressful. You’re dealing with life and death every day. It’s each physician’s dedication to take care of patients and that’s what keeps us going. There’s no better reward than to save somebody’s life. If your father got in a car wreck, it is a surgeon that saved his life. How precious a life is because we cannot measure it by any means. That’s the dedication of our lives, to relieve suffering.

On TV medical shows
I never see any medical shows. When I was young, I saw “Marcus Welby, M.D.” and “Medical Center.”
The shows now have too much drama. What we do in real life is what we do to benefit the real patients. That’s why I don’t watch medical shows. I cannot stand watching it because they’re so unreal. They think the ER does everything.
The show’s called “ER,” not “OR.” When you need surgical procedure, you take it to the operating room. I flip over and see it and that’s not what you do.
I watched “MASH.” It had a good medical background. Some of it was good, some of it was a stretch.

On Clovis
At that time (when I came), Clovis had only one surgeon, so I came here to take care of patients. How in the world one surgeon can serve every night being called back at that time. … Clovis was extremely under-served. Every other night I was called back.
Clovis High School provided a good education for my children.

—Edited for style, clarity and space