Dr. Michael Eng decided to become a cardiothoracic surgeon after witnessing father's death from heart attack
Loyola University Health Systemâs 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.
âHe passed away of a heart attack in front of my sisters and me,â said Dr. Eng, an instructor in the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill. âFrom around that time I wanted to do what Iâm doing today, which is heart surgery.â
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.
âWhen I finished it and my patient walked out the door, I knew I was a thoracic surgeon,â 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 Loyolaâs lung transplant team, which recently completed its 500th lung transplant.
âItâs a hard life,â said Dr. Eng, who earned his medical degree in 1999 at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vt. âItâs not nearly as glamorous as everybody makes it out to be. You work long hours â very long hours. You probably work the equivalent of two to three full-time jobs most weeks, and during your training for sure.â
Though it is a hard, demanding profession, Dr. Eng said he is more than compensated through his interactions with his patients and their families.
âWhen you tell someone that their family member has done well, is recovering well and will be better than they were before the surgery, thatâs the best part of it. Itâs a little clichÃ©d but thatâs pretty much why I do it. I love what I do,â 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.
âI wish I were taller,â Dr. Eng said. âI 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.â
Dr. Eng has found that competing in sports has made him a better surgeon.
âYou learn discipline,â Dr. Eng said. âYou learn the chain of command and how to work as a team, all of those attributes serves you well in this profession.â