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]
“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.”