Dr. Michael Eng decided to become a cardiothoracic surgeon after witnessing father's death from heart attack
Loyola University Health System’s Dr. Michael L. Eng vividly remembers the tragic morning that inspired him to become a cardiothoracic surgeon.
He was 10 years old that morning in 1982 when he and his two sisters woke up to discover their father Charles clutching his chest in pain.
“He passed away of a heart attack in front of my sisters and me,” said Dr. Eng, an instructor in the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill. “From around that time I wanted to do what I’m doing today, which is heart surgery.”
Dr. Eng also vividly remembers when he knew in his soul that he had achieved his goal. It was the end of October 2006 after he performed his first open-heart case on his own without any senior partners present in the operating room.
“When I finished it and my patient walked out the door, I knew I was a thoracic surgeon,” said Dr. Eng, who came to Loyola in July 2006 after completing his residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine/New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Conn.
Dr. Eng, 35, specializes in heart and lung surgery, heart valve repair, coronary artery disease, chest wall tumors and defects, minimally invasive procedures, familial aortic disease and operations on the esophagus and trachea. He is also a member of Loyola’s lung transplant team, which recently completed its 500th lung transplant.
“It’s a hard life,” said Dr. Eng, who earned his medical degree in 1999 at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vt. “It’s not nearly as glamorous as everybody makes it out to be. You work long hours – very long hours. You probably work the equivalent of two to three full-time jobs most weeks, and during your training for sure.”
Though it is a hard, demanding profession, Dr. Eng said he is more than compensated through his interactions with his patients and their families.
“When you tell someone that their family member has done well, is recovering well and will be better than they were before the surgery, that’s the best part of it. It’s a little clichéd but that’s pretty much why I do it. I love what I do,” Dr. Eng said.
As a lifelong athlete (he played some football and competed on the track teams in high school and college) and passionate sports fan, Dr. Eng relies on sports to help relieve the pressures of his profession.
“I wish I were taller,” Dr. Eng said. “I might have played some sort of semi-professional basketball. Believe it or not, I used to be able to dunk a tennis ball when I was younger.”
Dr. Eng has found that competing in sports has made him a better surgeon.
“You learn discipline,” Dr. Eng said. “You learn the chain of command and how to work as a team, all of those attributes serves you well in this profession.”
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.