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WHO, WHAT, WHERE: SIR Gold Medalist Alan H. Matsumoto, MD, FSIR 

12-21-2020 10:09

SIR Today 2019

SIR Today salutes each of the Gold Medalists with a personal look at their outstanding careers. We start Sunday with Alan H. Matsumoto, MD, FSIR. Monday's edition honors Daniel Picus, MD, FSIR, FACR, and on Tuesday we salute James B. Spies, FSIR. 

SIR President in 2015-16, Dr. Matsumoto is professor and chair of the department of radiology and medical imaging at the University of Virginia (UVA). He has been a member of the UVA faculty since 1991 and has trained more than 200 diagnostic radiology residents and 100 vascular and interventional radiology fellows. His clinical practice has included caring for patients with arteriovenous malformation, uterine fibroids, fibromuscular dysplasia, peripheral arterial, aortic, renal and mesenteric vascular, and venous thromboembolic disease. He developed and ran the imaging core lab for the trial that led to the first FDA-approved abdominal aortic endograft in 1999. SIR Today asked Dr. Matsumoto to talk about important people, places and things that shaped his life and career. 

WHO: George and Amy Matsumoto

My parents, who were second generation Japanese Americans (Nisei) and in their early 20s and dating at the time, were, significantly impacted during World War II. They were separated from each other and many of their family members when they were relocated from California into internment camps. Despite losing most of their possessions and dignity, they were able to eventually marry and have 3 children. I did not learn about this chapter of their lives until I was 25, since this information was not in any history books, and they were too embarrassed to discuss this story with their children until the late 1970s. 

What I did learn from my parents was their deep and sincere appreciation for what they had, rather than what they did not have. They took nothing for granted. My father also talked to me about making a difference, not at the expense of others but for the betterment of others. My mother, who was more of a traditional Japanese woman, was always trying to make the lives of those around her easier and filled with more happiness, but knew when to reset the ground rules with my father. These perspectives, along with observing how my parents seemingly used the word “no” as motivation and their work ethic and humility to drive our family’s success, laid the foundation for my professional career. That is, being appreciative for what I had, while not coveting what I did not have, taking advantage of the opportunities given to me, letting "no" redirect me to a better way to solve a problem, being willing to serve others for the improvement of the community and being driven by a sense of purpose. As a physician, the perspective provided to me by my parents was a nice foundation upon which to base my professional priorities.

WHERE: The Healthcare Setting

It is a great privilege to be a physician and very gratifying to being able to make a difference by using one’s expertise and knowledge. It has always amazed me that patients, who often did not actually know me very well, immediately entrusted me with their lives. Their confidence inspired me to be deserving of their trust, especially since this dynamic was very different from what my parents experienced. Growing up, our family lived less than one mile from a country club that my parents could not belong. So I saw my parents constantly having to prove their worth to the community around them. 

Again, this perspective provided me the context to sincerely appreciate the trust given to me by patients and my health care colleagues. Indeed, over the years, the ability to work with and be part of an inter-professional team of caring and compassionate individuals (other physicians and technical, nursing and administrative staff) has been extremely rewarding, while also being an inspiration and given me a great sense of purpose and pride. 

WHAT: Getting an Education, both traditional and experiential

I was not a great student in high school, and compared to my siblings, not a particularly outstanding college performer, either. So when I actually obtained my medical degree, my father, who was not a person who would often express his “softer” emotions publicly, cried, commenting that he had been worried that I would not finish college, much less become a doctor. In that singular moment, I realized how proud my parents were of my achievements and the person I had become, despite my self-centeredness that had tormented them over the years.

Fast forward to a generation later, and I soon learned that my children would teach me a different but important lesson. In their innocence, my daughters would often make observations or comments that were much more emotionally mature than how I was seeing things or how I was addressing conflicts in the moment. I learned from them that maturity and emotional intelligence were not necessarily age-related. This lesson changed how I looked at and interacted with people going forward. They helped me realize that experience develops context and informs wisdom, and that one can show emotional maturity without having many life experiences. Ascending the leadership ladder, my children opened my egotistical gate to allow me to receive input and ideas from a more diverse and youthful group of people, while my wife, Julie, has always been there to insure that my moral compass remained unwavering and constant. 

Lastly, the professional community of Interventional Radiology has been so welcoming. I have so many gifted colleagues to thank for sharing with me their knowledge, wisdom, friendship and camaraderie and providing me so many wonderful opportunities to be a contributor to our specialty. In many ways, I feel like a professional athlete.—that is, I get paid to do the thing I love to do. 

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