Being an immigrant myself, being a minority, I see different things or have witnessed or lived different perspectives.
My name is Tom Varghese. I'm the head of the section of general thoracic surgery at the University of Utah. I'm co-director of the thoracic oncology program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and I'm the program director of the cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at the University of Utah.
When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
My draw to the field of medicine actually came in high school. I was on the basketball team and tore ligaments of my knee and as a result unfortunately needed to have knee surgery. It just seemed that every single member of that healthcare team had a role and they did it to the highest level of professionalism.
What makes thoracic surgery special?
The thing I love about thoracic surgery is that it really is a comprehensive discipline. It incorporates in all aspects of the medical field. Preoperatively, the clinical conditions that lead to diseases within the chest. Should you operate? Should you not? Then, being able to perfect the highest level that you can achieve to make sure you get those great surgical results each and every single time.
What’s something we’d be surprised to learn about you?
I do love to draw cartoons. Part of it is I'm actually a comic aficionado-not comic books per se. I love the comic strips that come out of newspapers. Some of the best philosophy or some of the best statements is really by reading the comics.
We heard you are passionate about gender equity among surgeons.
Being an immigrant myself—being a minority—I see different things or have witnessed or lived different perspectives. Some of it is just plain common sense. Treat other human beings with dignity. It doesn't matter what gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs... Just treat people decently. So, if you have two individuals—let's say two physicians—who provide the same level of service and have the same level of competence and the same skill level, they should be paid equally.
What have you learned from your patients?
Every single patient has their own experiences, or their own values, or their quality of life, or what's important to them that they bring to the table. Some patients will come to us and say, "I'm looking forward to the birth of my grandchild in six months. That's the most important thing that I want to do in my life." And you sit back and say: “Great, now if we know that let's take a look at what treatment options we have.”