Atrium Health doctors who are also dads

News | one year ago

What It’s Like to be Doctor Dad

Atrium Health doctors are sharing the joys and juggles of balancing work and fatherhood.

Doctor by day, dad by night: Some of our Atrium Health doctors share what it’s like to juggle fatherhood with medical careers – the perks, the challenges and how their kids inspire their work each day.

Med School Can’t Compare to On-the-Job Dad Training

Being a good doctor and being a good dad have overlapping skillsets. Doctors are well-versed in creating schedules, in handling curve balls, in fielding difficult questions – all vital skills while raising children. Being a doctor-dad comes with practical perks, too. For Chris Branner, MD the specialty medical director of Atrium Health Urgent Care Services, bringing work skills home can also mean bringing fewer bills home. "With my three boys, frankly, being a doctor has given me valuable training and skills that have helped me care for them at home instead of having to take them to an urgent care."

Dr. Branner, his wife and three sons.

In other ways, however, no amount of medical training can prepare someone for having kids. Not even the schedule of a resident physician can compare to the schedule of a new parent.

“Even my medical training didn’t prepare me for the kind of sleep deprivation you face when your boy racks up ear infections and nights of teething,” says Brendan Kleiboer, MD, a pediatric oncologist at Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital and the father of a 10-month-old son. “Being a pediatrician first did not prepare me one bit for being a dad. I am the same nervous dad as any nervous first-time dad.”

Dr. Brendan Kleiboer and his son

Like parents everywhere can relate, even years spent parenting doesn’t mean ever having the role completely mastered. And that’s OK.

“I’ve learned our kids don’t need us to be perfect. They just need us to love them and do our best,” says Stephen Renfrow, MD, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Charlotte Pediatrics in Blakeney. “I used to think I’d reach a point where I’d have this whole dad thing figured out. My oldest child is 14, and I’m here to testify that I have not yet reached that point.”

Dr. Renfrow and family on a strawberry picking trip

In addition, these doctors have learned that studying the body and its development is completely different than experiencing the wonder of your own child’s growth. Christopher Leon Guerrero, MD, of Atrium Health Neurosciences Institute has experienced this first-hand. “Even though I’m a neurologist, I am still surprised and amazed by my three children’s development, by watching them grow.”

Dr. Christopher Leo Guerrero

When Kids Motivate the Experts

Atrium Health dads acknowledge that it’s often their kids who center them, de-stress them and inspire them. Prioritizing time with kids means, for a while, leaving the pressures of work behind to see the world through their eyes.

Joshua Patt, MD, vice chair of education at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute and Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute, strives to take time to enjoy dinner as a family every night – even if, some nights, it’s just a quick meal. He’s realized that the kids sitting around the table have become his favorite teammates, too.

“There is nothing I like more than playing sports with my kids or watching them play. Golfing with my three kids is my dream foursome,” Dr. Patt says. “It’s been great to watch my children learn about teamwork, perseverance, winning and losing through sports.”

Dr. Patt and family

Kids even inspire their dads to be better doctors.

“I do believe that being a father has helped me become a better physician,” says Jeffrey Ham , MD, a sports medicine physician with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute. “My kids have helped remind me why I love helping people and why I love doing what I do.”

Dr. Ham and family

“Caring for both my patients and my children inspires me to work on my listening and communication skills,” says Michael Grunwald, MD, chief of the Leukemia Division and director of the Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Program at Levine Cancer Institute. “I strive to be a more patient, attentive and respectful listener, as well as a more clear and efficient communicator.”

Dr. Grunwald and family

And sometimes, being a doctor inspires them to be better dads.

“When I go to work and lose myself in something I’m passionate about, I believe I’m filling my ‘dad cup’ and I have more to give my children at the end of the day,” says Sherif Soliman, MD, a forensic psychiatrist with Atrium Health Behavioral Health Services. “Feeling fulfilled helps me care for my children, and feeling intellectually stimulated helps me feed their creativity.”

Dr. Soliman and family

Two Roles that Specialize in Nurturing

Priyesh Patel, MD, a cardiologist at Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, remembers one extra-special Father’s Day card he received. The card was made by his wife – his daughter was too young to make cards then – and it read, “Thank you for everything you do and we love you. You are a great dad.” During a busy time – he had just begun his first job as a physician and his wife was still in training – that card made him to stop to think about the special opportunity he had to be both a doctor and a dad, to have two roles that nurture and care for others. Even during the busiest of days, he says that it’s good to keep that perspective. It’s a mindset his colleagues share.

“I love getting to explain to my kids that I get to help other parents bring their own kids into the world,” says Joshua Counihan, MD an OB-GYN with Atrium Health Women’s Care Eastover. “My wife and I make it a priority to teach them how important it is to serve others and give back to the community. To me, being a physician is serving my patients – and I hope my kids see that.”

Dr. Counihan and family