Antonio Graham, DO ’11, (GA–PCOM)


August 28, 2017

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia

[as told to Janice Fisher]

Antonio Graham“I come from a working-class family. My father was an electrician, and my mother was a secretary. I feel like I’m the American dream, honestly: I had two hardworking parents who pushed education, and here I am. . . . My father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the second year of my residency, and he died a few months before I graduated. He said, ‘Please, if you do anything for me, keep going.’ . . . Why did I choose geriatrics? I really enjoy older adults—their wisdom, their perspective on life; sometimes I feel I’m getting more from them than they’re getting from me. . . . One of the best tools we have as geriatricians is our ability to communicate. We do pay attention to the details, we do tend to memorize the history of the family. If you build trust, your patients will do what you want medically. And the truth is, it’s not a ploy—I really am invested in them. . . . I have some of the most fascinating patients at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where geriatrics is age 75 and older. I take care of a ton of World War II vets, and I’m a history buff, so it’s like heaven for me. One patient was at the Battle of the Bulge; I have a Normandy survivor. It’s quite an honor to serve them. . . . It bothers me sometimes that I can’t really do much to change most people’s situations. A great mentor at Johns Hopkins, Thomas Finucane, MD, said, ‘You have to know a lot to do very little.’ Sometimes I struggle with accepting that. Some patients are so socially and medically complicated that I can’t fix any of it. . . . Then I have a patient who’s 89, and he just ran a marathon. So it’s a tremendous spectrum of ability and frailty.”