Dr. Eric Fishman attended the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan from 1993-1997 and spent his general surgery residency there through 2003. He then was a general surgeon as part of the faculty at Mount Sinai’s Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. When Dr. Fishman decided to pursue vascular surgery as his specialty in health care, he continued his fellowship training with Mount Sinai and then moved to the Westmed Group in Westchester County, New York.
In all of his years practicing vascular surgery in the New York City area, Dr. Fishman has realized he picked the right practice for his talents. He enjoys seeing a diversity of patients, from the young to the old, who he helps to improve health care outcomes and literally get them back on their feet again.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
The thing I love the most as a vascular surgeon is to develop relationships with people who have pain and discomfort and being able to help to alleviate those problems for them. Also, knowing that I can monitor them and keep them well for the long term is incredibly gratifying.
What keeps you motivated?
I have two daughters that are growing up and starting to have a real sense of the nature of my profession and how much of a value for society I can be. Being a doctor is more than just making a living, and that helps me to stay focused and motivated.
The other thing is vascular surgery is one of those specialties that is very humbling. You can do a lot of great work for a patient yet accepting their health outcome independent of your influence can be difficult. It’s important to really appreciate the moments when you can help somebody, because it is not always that way. But being fortunate enough to work with so many people I like and admire, from fellow doctors and nurses to administrators to housekeeping staff, helps keep morale up and motivation high.
How do you motivate others?
Making everybody from patients to colleagues feel that you are at the same level as they are helps us all to feel motivated when we are working together. You’re not so superior to them that you can dismiss anything they may think or say. You have to take whatever they say and really listen and be as honest as you can with them. I also use humor with them, which can help explain difficult topics and put them at ease.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
Dr. Han-Yu Shen. He’s a general surgeon who is one of those people you meet that are the nicest and most wonderful people in general. He’s also a master surgeon. He can do anything, but he’s very, very modest. He trained me in general surgery, and I had the great fortune of being able to spend a lot of quality time with him. He was one of my influences in going into vascular surgery. It’s not just me that thinks he is a role model; he is universally thought of as a great teacher and a great doctor.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
It sounds crazy for a surgeon to say, but we can be like the carpenter who has a hammer and is always seeing a nail. I always find I have an intrinsic bias, but just in general I like to operate. It’s fun and I am good at it. But the more I take care of vascular surgery patients, the more I try not to operate. Sometimes the best results can be achieved by doing more with less. I joke with my patients that their primary doctor and their family are the only ones who can protect them from me. This kind of humor and making sure I am not always operating as a first course of action kind of indirectly makes my life as a doctor less stressful.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
Moving to a different country was very hard. I came here when I was 19, leaving behind my parents and siblings in Peru. I am married now and have two kids here in America, and I get to see my family in Peru often, but it is still difficult. I know it is a common story for immigrants, but for me it was still a difficult thing.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
My number one accomplishment is having a family. And number two, despite all the obstacles we have as doctors, I continue to enjoy what I do. When you ask a lot of people what they would do if they had another chance at a life or career, they choose something different than what they have. I would do exactly what I have done. I would marry the same woman and pursue the same profession.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I love to play tennis. I have many good friends that I play with. It helps me be active and lowers the stress in my life.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
Professionally speaking, I will be doing exactly what I’m doing now, but hopefully even better. I love my job and really look forward to continuing to do what I love. With a lot of the patients I work with, I am starting a relationship where I will know and see them for years. I saved one woman’s leg when she was in her late seventies. When I started as a vascular surgeon 10 years ago, she was one of my first patients. I still see her to this day. Every time I see a patient that I was able to help, it’s like seeing family. It makes your day. That is not something I want to change in my life.