In episode 23 — the eighth of season two of Knights Do That — we speak with Michael Chiang ’20MS, who is specializing in emergency medicine and is the first UCF student to graduate with a dual-degree M.D. and master’s in hospitality, shares what drew him into these fields, how he plans to use both degrees in the future and the adversity he’s faced along the way. Here is an inspiring episode of how education and life experiences can guide you.
Michael Chiang: I think that gets to the heart of what hospitality is. It’s trying to give people who walked through the door the best possible experience. So for me as an ED doc, even on the microscale, it is trying to recognize that people who come in are people who come in an extremely vulnerable place and when you see them. They not only want you to take care of all of these infinite amount of worries that they have and also address whatever life detrimental situations they might encounter but also to feel at ease and really, I think that’s the start of it.
Alex Cumming: Welcome back to another episode of Knights Do That. The medical world is rapidly changing and the way that medical professionals work with patients is too. Today’s guest, Michael Chiang ’20, is a great example of that. Michael is the first UCF student to graduate doing a dual track in medicine while also earning a master’s of hospitality, which is no walk in the park. We talked about what drew him to these fields, how he plans to use them in the future and the adversity that he’s faced along the way. Michael is wildly driven with a passion for his work and a lust for life and I’m super excited for you to meet him.
So you are the first UCF student, I want make sure I get this right, to earn a master’s of hospitality on top of your medical degree.
Michael Chiang: That’s correct.
Alex Cumming: That’s awesome.
Michael Chiang: It’s something all right.
Alex Cumming: What’d you do to the fields of medicine and hospitality?
Michael Chiang: I think actually they were two separate paths. So my interest for medicine started early. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was crafted for a little bit. I’m the child of immigrants so my dad’s Taiwanese and my mom is Chinese. I once remember a comedic sketch, which was that one generation they want everyone to be lawyers and doctors cause you can kind of live that American dream. But in high school my mom collapsed very suddenly, very randomly and that’s when medicine actually became personal. And then as you know, you go through the process of undergraduate and try to make yourself more find your way in the world. Find out why medicine is for you.
I think we all have our own narratives as to why it ultimately becomes important to us. For me it was collection of being able to be close to healthcare, seeing both that personal and professional fulfillment from the math sciences but also the humanities. And yeah, as go through medical school I think you find reasons why you come to love it more as you both know the beautiful things and the fatal flaws of the system and you kind of reconcile that. For hospitality I come from very humble background, grew up pretty poor, lived in a single bedroom with my parents up until the age of 10. Also went through a public school system that was really rough, subject of bullying, a lot of racism, I even got stabbed as a kid. So that was really tough times. I really enjoyed the aspects of serving other people. I was a server at some point, I did some bartending in undergraduates. I always liked getting to know people outside of the heady spaces of like advanced classrooms and stuff like that.
When I came to UCF, hospitality wasn’t on my mind but during the second look our dean, Dean (Deborah) German, who is one of the most respected people I’ve ever met, had this vision for it and really strongly sold it. Every year, everyone’s always very hype about it from the beginning. But as you go through medical school I think that starts to come down a little bit but it was always something on the table for me. And as I became more and more interested in it, especially going through some clinicals and seeing how there wasn’t this intrinsic service to a lot of medicine, I really became more passionate about and thought I could do something with this in my life.
Alex Cumming: Can you talk to me about where you see the two combining together in your career?
Michael Chiang: Sure. So first of all, I’ll give you an overview as to how it might look in kind of a generic medical physician and then how it might play in my life. So, there are many ways you could do it, you could become an entrepreneurial small business maximizing your service on a small scale, whether or not you’re a family practitioner, whether or not you make some medical adjacent practices, whether it’s surgery or maybe some kind of medical spas or wellness services. There are ways in which you could be very academic about it and say this is why we should be doing it, writing papers, doing grants, things of that nature. You could be a hospital CEO and try to run your system, trying to show how this could both be profitable and good for the community.
For me I’m going to be an emergency doc, that’s my first love. What we do in the department is we see everyone and often that comes out ahead with service because you’re trying to prevent your ship from sinking. So a lot of people they think, huh, you’re going to be an emergency doc? How are you going to use this? At the moment there are many different options, and it depends on what job opportunities are most available to me. My first love is medicine so I want to focus on being a good ED doc, however, depending on where I practice in the U.S, perhaps to become part of a small physician group practice and can really have a lot of autonomy in that way, academics still is on the table if the local market is receptive to that and then finally I think it’s just made me a more well-rounded doctor. I have a lot of interests besides medicine I’ve always had some entrepreneurial folks in my background both some friends and family who’ve run their own businesses and I could see myself doing something completely unrelated as well.
Alex Cumming: Wow. That’s so awesome to hear it and the possibilities here you have.
Michael Chiang: It is.
Alex Cumming: I was thinking about how important it is for doctors to be hospitable, to be welcoming, kind, open.
Michael Chiang: Oh, absolutely.
To when a patient feels more comfortable with the doctor and they feel more at ease in their surroundings.
I think that there are shifts and movements in medicine as we become more open to the holistic aspects of it, as we become more diverse. Medical curriculum has tried to address this essence of rapport building and showing that we’re not a homogenous group and how we’re not just all a list of problems. I think medical schools do that across the nation to varying degrees of success. However, how do you bring that within your own practice when you’re not being tested on it? When it’s not part of the curriculum? I think it can be very difficult for people especially, generational wealth, a lot of people come from very upper-class backgrounds. Some people don’t know how to interact with peoples of different cultures. People who have food insecurity. People who might be the subjects of violence or who don’t see themselves well-represented in the media and I think that gets to the heart of what hospitality is. It’s trying to give people who walked through the door the best possible experience. So for me as an ED doc, even on the microscale, it is trying to recognize that people who come in are people who come in an extremely vulnerable place and when you see them, they not only want you to take care of all of these infinite amount of worries that they have and also address whatever life detrimental situations they might encounter, but also to feel at ease and really, I think that’s the start of it. Then we tried to design principals, systems that are more getting to heart as to why we might have repeat people in the ED? We always hear these narratives as to people have these horrible experiences or they associate certain hospitals with really negative things. And I think as we get better as a society we start to see that these are not things to be left on the table. But design systems in which we are really recognizing that this is part of medicine.
Alex Cumming: It’s tough to teach.
Michael Chiang: It is.
Alex Cumming: Hospitality and social skills, medical school is not designed for that.
Michael Chiang: No.
Alex Cumming: I’ve never gone, but-
Michael Chiang: I’m thankful you haven’t.
Alex Cumming: I’m in acting school.
Michael Chiang: Oh, I used to do a little acting back in the day.
Alex Cumming: Really?
Michael Chiang: I was a thespian growing up.
Alex Cumming: Alright.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Alex Cumming: Here in Florida?
Michael Chiang: Yeah, back in, like, the Pinellas County but it was a far away school so I only got to go to a few local things.
Alex Cumming: All right. We’ll have to make you break out your chops at some point here and have you do a monologue.
Michael Chiang: Yes, I have definitely met a lot of physicians, a lot of colleagues, a lot of people who I don’t necessarily want to be treating me. But you know what that’s okay because I think all change is progressive, all change is incremental and that there are roles for many different people within the medical field. Your pediatricians are always going to be very different from your radiologists, your surgeons and that’s not to say that these stereotypes we draw are necessarily the way things will always be and have to be. But I think I’ve met some people with glorious strengths who might not be the nicest but definitely have a role. The way I hope things develop is that people will put themselves in positions, in vulnerabilities, where they can start to at least be open to a different way of doing things. I’d like to say that medicine can’t teach you to be a better person and I think that’s the core of what we often want. Our medical providers to be these paragons of idealism where they are always happy to see us. They are taking care of our every needs, they’re competent, they are well-respected, that they get us. And that’s simply not the case. Often it’s the type we are human. We are sometimes subject to horrible working conditions. You might say, “Man, this doc’s like really mean,” but you might be the 30th or 40th patient that we’ve seen in a stem of 12 or 14 hours, maybe even 28 hours, as some of my colleagues who are now residents are doing. It’s tough to reconcile. I’m not giving you an excuse but I think understanding on both parts is how we get to solutions that can affect both parties in a positive way.
Alex Cumming: Remembering the humanity that’s in doctors. They’re people too. So, Michael you went through Match Day recently.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, great time.
Alex Cumming: Can you talk to me about Match Day? How the experience was for you? And for people who are listening who aren’t familiar with what Match Day is, can you describe it for them?
Michael Chiang: Oh man, I’m still getting some heart palpitations just recalling it. So match, it can be this really complicated thing I won’t go into all those details. But it’s basically the culmination of four maybe eight years if you consider pre-med or maybe an entire lifetime if you’ve always wanted to be a doc. Basically it’s a practice in the U.S., you have to go through what we call a residency, your further training, your specialization. Even family docs will go through three years of residency and some people like neurosurgeons go to as much as seven years. So, it can be a very long path. Once you’re specialized you’re on that pathway for the next three to seven possibly longer years. And basically this whole process is dictated by how well you did in medical school on your grades, basically every interaction you’ve ever had with a physician who said you were a great student or a poor student. So that’s a really stressful event especially since most of us are in our late 20’s, early 30’s and balancing other pressures of starting a family, wanting to do what we want with our lives seeking purpose. I think everyone feels a sigh of relief after Match Day because you know that you’re going to be a doctor and you’re going to be changing lives. So I think that’s one of the most beautiful things, because you’ve gone through your entire four years wondering what you’re going to do. And it tells you to just on a piece of paper that you open at noon Eastern Standard Time all the medical students across the U.S open exactly at the same time.
Alex Cumming: Wow.
Michael Chiang: Yeah so it’s, there’s an energy in the air.
Alex Cumming: For those are listening who haven’t seen the video, it is just, it’s heartwarming, it’s uplifting to watch.
Michael Chiang: Oh yeah.
Alex Cumming: You and your colleagues, the smiles, the joy, the families. To put it in my perspective as an actor, I go through my years of theater school and at the end of it they’re like, “|Alright you going to perform at one theater for the next three years.”
Michael Chiang: I like to think of it as you’ve done all the training you’ve done all the work and now you’re just waiting and, you know, what’s going to happen, you know you’re going to be whatever it is that you want it to be. And like maybe an acting school, you go to your first big break, your first big cold call and you’re like, wow, this could really be it. And you’ve done this monologue hundreds of times and now you’re asked to perform that one time and this is pretty much the determining factor.
Alex Cumming: Yeah, that’s a nightmare we all face. So you’re there, you have your paper, 11:59 a.m. and 45 seconds. What’s going through your head?
Michael Chiang: First of all I have to remember not to look at my Apple Watch because apparently I saw an email that said — but I didn’t read the title. I was like, “OK, let’s turn that away.” They sent it at 11:58 a.m., I don’t know why, yeah, so I’m standing there and I do see some cameras. But, you know, this moments for me so I try to recenter myself, steady my breathing. Of course, my parents are also there, they know my list. I’m pretty transparent, trying to normalize that. So I told everyone my list and have this thing in my hand and I feel my heart rate rising. I feel nervous, and these days not a lot gets me nervous, but I could feel myself tearing up because this is it. This is the next three years and this is my first major job and this is the culmination of my parents’ dreams and everyone’s here with me. So as you hear that countdown you really it’s the shakes get to you, you feel it all and then you just try your best to rip over this envelope and to get inside. And on the piece of paper I saw my first choice at UT Southwestern in Dallas. Amazing program and yeah, I just you can watch the video, but I had pure joy. I really blanked out as to what happened next. I tried my best to keep it together, but I don’t know how successful I was. And just to give a little segue, and if I had got into any other number of programs. So, we make a list. We rank our programs. It’s a very complicated process, I had a list of 16 I could have ended up at. Anywhere on my one through five would have been amazing objectively. One through nine still really good. And then anywhere like past 12, past 13, I’m still going to be fulfilling my dream of being an ED doc. But just to have that validation that you’ve picked someone as your first choice and they’ve picked you back, it’s an amazing feeling.
Alex Cumming: Well, congratulations.
Michael Chiang: Thank you.
Alex Cumming: From the sound of it, I’ll let you know when I go through my match, if it feels the same way. That’s awesome, out to Dallas.
Michael Chiang: Yes.
Alex Cumming: Headed a little more west staying in the south though.
Michael Chiang: Correct.
Alex Cumming: I’ve never been but I’ve heard wonderful things.
Michael Chiang: Super excited.
Alex Cumming: With graduation right around the corner. How has UCF, your time here, guided your career trajectory?
Michael Chiang: Yeah, so I think the great thing about UCF, and one of the reasons why I came here for medical school — and something that the dean said during our interview day was that, “We don’t care where you go after here.” A lot of places they want medical students who are going to stay here, develop the program, set their roots. But the dean has always said that we want you to be leaders in your respective fields and promote UCF in that way. We want to be more international minded and we want to promote this message of exceptionalism through whatever it is that you choose to do just go and do it. So I’ve taken that in stride. I realized I didn’t want to be in Florida early on since, you know, I’ve grown up here, born here and my parents made their own way in the world. And I feel I should do the same, although Texas is not the same as crossing the Pacific Ocean. I just, I see and do as much as I possibly can in the time I have remaining. I’m actually going to have a few trips coming up and going to Europe on Friday and then I’m going to go to South Africa for a bit. It’s going to be a lot of fun. But yeah, I’ve always taken that mindset as to doing your best to push yourself forward, which is one of the reasons why I chose this ED program. You see a lot of stuff they have a great reputation in the ED world. They actually have the most ED visits by a single hospital in the entire U.S., it’s to over 200,000. I love being pushed in that way. So that’s to answer your question, how my time at UCF has informed me. Just to keep pushing and to keep challenging yourself and to be very growth minded.
Alex Cumming: The alumni, the people who come from UCF, when they go out into the world and they represent UCF, that’s the best advertising. That’s the best representation you can be for the university just being the best that you are.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, I think the results speak for themselves. We’re a relatively newer medical school compared to some of the more established ones in the state of Florida where we’ve just passed the 10 year mark, which means we’re not the new kid on the block. But I think UCF students are known for being very well received across the nation, people like us, people like working with us and I think in the time that we’ve been around, we’ve really established ourselves.
Alex Cumming: I’m glad that people, they like us. I’m glad, that’s good to know.
Michael Chiang: We do have a great mascot too, right?
Alex Cumming: Oh, you ain’t got to tell me twice, best there is.
So you were talking about how you’re traveling to Europe and South Africa these coming weeks and months, that sounds super cool. I think you’ve deserved a trip away after all the hard work you’ve done. So I want to ask you, you know, your hobbies and the things you do outside of hospitality and medicine. How does that play into your career?
Michael Chiang: Yeah, so I think it comes down to trying to make yourself the most fulfilled person you can be each day, whatever that means. For me I’m still trying my best to grow to be the person I want to be, an adventurous spirit who is worldly and who is open to new experiences, things of that nature. And I think that often is the case, medicine can quite easily become your life for better or worse. I talked to some older physicians and I always ask them questions, “What would you do differently? What’s your biggest regret? What’s your strengths?” Everyone almost always continues to love their job, but the glimmer is not quite as much there and often it comes down to loss in other areas of their life. To become a medical school student you often have to demonstrate volunteerism, interesting hobbies, you have to be the top of your class, all this stuff. So you’re a relatively interesting person, I would say, not to toot my horn too much, but I think you start to lose that as you become a medical school student. You start to become accustomed to studying 12 hours a day. I have a friend who’s an orthopedic resident, he’s about to do his trauma rotation. He works 28 hours straight, go home to sleep, does the next thing the next day. So that’s Q2 24 with four-hour overlap. So it’s really hard to have other things in your life. And I really desperately almost don’t want to lose that because I think it refreshes you. It makes you see the calling not so much as work but as something you extremely enjoy but also just one aspect of your life that makes you this really interesting, loving, fulfilled human. So that’s, for me, it’s not so much something I try my best to keep up, it’s a priority because it makes me show up better in all aspects of my life.
Alex Cumming: Makes you come in as a better doctor too when you’re more well rounded. I would like to think that you learn more about culture, you learn more about people, their backgrounds and experiences that you can bring to the medical world.
Michael Chiang: Right, right. I was in geriatrics clinic earlier this week and I had one patient who had been flying for Jet Blue for many years. And I am a little bit of an aviation geek, so I asked what he flew if it was the A321 Neo or did he do a lot of cross country trips, stuff like that, and he was, he’s pretty surprised by that. But we had a good talk there and then I had another patient whose granddaughter was doing some Taiko drumming, some Japanese drumming. I talked to her about recently going to Japan, pre-COVID. And she was very surprised and told me about all the places that she loved to visit, such as Osaka for the food, and she wants to go back to Nagoya and then do a Hokkaido trip. I was like, “Yeah, that’s amazing.” So at least, for anything, it allows me to build rapport a little bit better and to actually show them that, “Hey, I’m actually a human too. I’m not just living here in the hospital cellar.”
Alex Cumming: Well, when you go to Dallas, you said it’s the one of the most happening centers there.
Michael Chiang: Oh yeah.
Alex Cumming: You’re going to have a lot of people to talk to.
Michael Chiang: Oh yeah, thinking of getting a pair of boots too because apparently that’s the thing.
Alex Cumming: Yeah, you got to get the hat, boots. You come from Florida you’re going to Texas.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, instant street cred.
Alex Cumming: How do you balance all that? All this traveling you want to do and keeping yourself open minded?
Michael Chiang: Well, I think there’s two major ways. One, you just get more efficient at monitoring your time. For a period of time, I was making sure I was in bed everyday by 8:30 p.m. I was keeping track of my time, just like multitasking very well. But then I think it also comes down to priorities and doing the long game. Knowing that nothing’s going to change immediately but you dedicate aspects of your time and say, this is what’s going to happen. So I am not one of those people who can sleep four hours a day and survive. I need at least six to seven to thrive. So I make sure to get that in.
For example, during my third year I randomly started taking up Brazilian jiu jitsu and practices were at 4:30 a.m. twice a week, but I would make that as much as I could. Yeah, I had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to make that and then I’d be in the hospital by 6 a.m. So that was Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays and I consistently did that for a while. It came in really useful actually, when I got attacked after work one day, but I was able to recently get a promotion in my belt and it’s been a big part of my community experience.
Alex Cumming: Yeah, Brazillian jiu jitsu is such a cool thing.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. There’s just so much to do in life and I always find so many things that I become passionate about. I just wish there was more time to do them all.
Alex Cumming: Might be tough if you’re talking to somebody about UFC and they like, oh, where’d you go to school? UCF.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, yeah.
Alex Cumming: So you’ve mentioned how you faced adversity. You earlier was talking about what you faced growing up, familial things you’d gone through and attacked after work.
Michael Chiang: Oh yeah.
Alex Cumming: Which is wild.
Michael Chiang: Kind of crazy.
Alex Cumming: How do you deal with the adversity in your career? How has that affected you to what you do now?
Michael Chiang: I think I have a lot of different systems, ways I do it. So one, my instant go-to defense is at least no one’s dying. Sometimes people are actually dying so that kind of puts things in perspective.
Alex Cumming: In your career specifically. In my career that’s a little different.
Michael Chiang: Yeah, but I mean, some of the more practical things that I will do as well. I try my best to be a whole human. Like I said, I do things I love and it’s not just a constant grind, there is dedicated time aside. Now that might just be like 15 minutes of meditation in the mornings. While I make a cup of coffee on my chemex, but sometimes that’s enough. It’s going to a core group of friends that when I really feel down or I really just need someone to listen to talk that I can count on them to show up, and likewise I do the same for them. It is realizing that there’s just so much more to life and that I am blessed, truly blessed, to be doing what I’m doing and to be where I am in life. I meet so much more resilient people in my life. People who’ve lost limbs people who’ve lost family, people who are just trying to survive but are optimistic or they’re hopeful or they’re just trying their best. I know where I’ve come from culturally where my parents have been, where my mom tells me stories of how she saw death and torture in China growing up or how my father came to this country with nothing. And so as someone who didn’t have the easiest childhood, it was still better than what they went through. So there’s all of those aspects but really I think just knowing what it is that you need and living your life in service of that while also like having a purpose I think that’s truly how I survive. At the end of the day, regardless of what I’m doing, I can find comfort in the fact that I’m here and I’m saving someone’s life. Now, of course, there are some days that’s a little bit worse off some days when you really feel like you’re so helpless, however, that I think mission pushes me forward. And then wellness, meditation, all of that is very important to me. I actually developed a course for UCF College of Medicine as an elective and I just finished that up in addition to one on financial literacy. We’re going to apply for a grant and see if we can spread this mission among our UCF students. Something that’s been really underdeveloped in medical school curriculum but hopefully it helps people just like it’s helped me.
Alex Cumming: To stay grounded and keep yourself on the level, probably be pretty easy to get carried away, like deep rabbit hole spiral when you’re seeing emergency. So during your time here at UCF, the internships and the experiences that you’ve done, what have been some of your favorite memories?
Michael Chiang: Oh God, there’s too numerous to count. I think I would put them down into three major categories which is recognition by peers, colleagues, family; recognition by patients; and then recognition for yourself. So there’s a couple of big milestones in medical schools. So when we finished those it’s like “Wow, we’re halfway to being a doctor, we’re three-quarters of the way or we’re almost there.” We take these huge board certifications that historically have always had determined where we’re going to go. Think of the SAT on steroids, and they’re like 10 hour exams, 320 questions long. A minute and a half each and you spend eight weeks dedicated just studying for this nonstop and it compiles like the first two years or then the third year of medical school. So completing those always is like a huge weight off your shoulder. So that’s great and celebrating with everyone.
And there is recognition from patients. I remember so many experiences that I’ve had, I can think of two off the top of my head right now when I was early on in my surgery rotation. I was just getting starting clinicals and you transfer bookwork to clinical experience, and I had this patient who was in the hospital for weeks and I was there early in his care and I was actually fortunate enough to be there upon discharge. And he started off very delirious, didn’t say a word and that went on for a week. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t talk, he was just kind of presence and slowly he started to recover. So by the end when he was discharged, he was telling me all of his future plans. How thankful he was to get to see me these couple of times and you know how he was going to go home and tell his kids that he loved them and how fortunate he was to be in his situation and recovery. And that was a really beautiful time because you saw this arc of his story and it was amazing. An experience that I also remember cause it’s the first patient where it’s oh wow, I really saw you recover from death’s door. So that was amazing. More recently as you become a fourth-year you’re entering residency soon. You’re expected to perform at the level of a new doc. So I saw this one patient on the ED who hadn’t seen a doc for 20 years. Wasn’t the best historian, kind of a little bit scatterbrained, but she came in with a complaint that was like pretty serious and could be anything. So I did this thing that I recalled from medical school called for BPPV or a benign paroxysmal and I did this procedure where you move the head from one side than another side then raise them. It’s a little bit complex to explain, but I think I like fixed her and that was really amazing. I was like, “Huh, OK, cool.” Just a little bit of dark humor, she was blind. You read the textbook and you’re trying to recall something from a year ago, so I had my YouTube in the corner on mute and I was just thinking, “OK, I am doing this correct, OK.” We ultimately had to admit her be, as she hasn’t seen a doctor for 20 years, it could be a stroke but she immediately felt better and I think that might’ve been it, yeah.
Alex Cumming: Youtube saves lives.
Michael Chiang: And then finally I would say recognizing that I’ve made this journey and made huge strides. There are a couple moments when you’re like, “Wow, I’m doing this. Like I’m sticking the needle in. I am like repairing this broken lip, I am stapling this skull shut.” Circling back to something I mentioned earlier, I was coming home from work and I stayed an extra couple hours. It was like 8 p.m., I was supposed to get off at like 5 p.m. cause I came in at like 6 a.m., and then I was going to tacos truck off Orange Avenue. And out of nowhere this guy starts like trying to get really friendly up all in my space, I’m wearing scrubs too. He’s saying some slurs. You’re kind of like, “Huh, this is a little off.” And then out of nowhere, he’s just starts attacking, starts swinging, starts going for it. And I’m like, “Oh my God, what should I do?” Of course, the owner of the taco bus he holds off. He’s like kind of monitoring the situation but I’m able to disengage. I almost have them in what we call a standing arm lock. I’m thinking of breaking his arm but you know. I think that would make trouble sending someone to the ED. So I ended up being able to disengage, call for some help, get the police involved and I was able to really protect myself and nothing really hit my face, so that was good. I talked to one of my bosses like the next day, I actually took a picture just so that I could keep everything documented in case I can’t go to work the next day or they gave me some hardness. And he said, “Oh man this patient was actually in here a couple of days ago for either some drug activity or some alcoholism.” I was like, “Huh, OK. Alright.” But that was a personal victory because I was like, “Huh, you know, you put yourself in a dangerous situation,” or you’re in a dangerous situation, able to disengage, you’re able to protect yourself. That was the culmination of all those 4:30 a.m. trainings. And also, just like that I was able to keep my wits about me because in the ED we will encounter dangerous circumstances. I’ve had so many different things happen to me. People threatened to throw things at me, people would get a little bit belligerent, people say a lot of racial slurs even here in Florida. And yeah it’s just knowing that, it didn’t phase me and I was able to keep going along and that’s really shown me that I’ve grown as a person these last four years, four or five years, actually
Alex Cumming: It’s important to have that, the external, I think that’s a lot of trouble comes when you don’t have the internal. Because then it’s just this seeking validation. What advice would you give to somebody who wants to pursue medical school or maybe even just pick up a second degree.
Michael Chiang: You know, it’s funny because I actually met with a girl earlier who had a non-traditional way into medicine. She’s from, I think, Iowa, Wisconsin, a Midwest state and she wants to do medicine and she asked me about this hospitality thing. And she actually was an event manager before had no undergrad degree. The first thing as weird as it sounds, we always say to prospective pre-meds or people who want to do medicine is if you find anything else in your life, do that, because this is hard work. This is delayed gratification for 10 years. This is debt, crippling debt often. This is, you know, a lot of thankless nights. This will challenge you in ways that you never imagined. It’s one of the best jobs in the worlds, for some people, it is a calling. And that you will get to do things that you will never have imagined. You will get to show up for people and incredible ways and that trying to keep that spark alive is probably the most important thing. I mentioned earlier how medicine can become your life and some people they do want it to become everything. And at the expense of families at the expense of their own health and more service to them if that’s what they want to do. But I think the rest of us really want to find that balance. And as a result, keep the spark of life, but also do yourself a service and keep your own like inner fire going show up for your family. Show up for yourself and realize that it’s going to be a long path at the end of the day. Once you get there it will have been worth it, hopefully, and that you figure out the way in which you want to live this life. And that’s how you’ll be the best physician you can be.
Alex Cumming: What’s something that you’re still hoping to do?
Michael Chiang: There’s always this exercise I’ve heard, and it’s imagine what people would say at your eulogy. I do have aspirations of wanting to do something great. Perhaps with hospitality, perhaps be known for someone who put service at the forefront of medicine and wasn’t just someone who gave lip to it as we’ve seen in the medical industrial complex. I also just want to make sure that people know that I was someone full of love I really cared about my patients, that I was a good mentor and teacher and that I will be missed. So that’s something I kind of always keep at the forefront of my mind whenever I’m doing something or taking on something new. I do want to get a cat and dog finally.
Alex Cumming: Now you have time.
Michael Chiang: Oh, no. We’re about to go back into the fire, my dude. I will say a little bit silly of a goal is I want to hit hundred countries by the time I’m 30, this week I’ll hit 50. COVID’s put a damper on those plans. I originally had plans to do a little bit more of Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East and Central Asia but it will be there and I’ll come back to it, so.
Alex Cumming: Wow, Michael, thank you so much for your time. It’s been awesome to get to hear about your story. Dallas is getting a fantastic professional and if anything ever happens to me in Dallas, I know who to call.
Michael Chiang: Oh yeah. Just show up and I’ll be there for you.
Alex Cumming: Thank you so much for your time. It’s been so great to get to chat.
Michael Chiang: Thank you so much, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Alex Cumming: What I love about Michael’s story is the love for his work and that it has driven him in the face of adversity, along with not being defined strictly by outside voices. We will continue talking with people changing the medical world on the next episode of ‘Knights Do That.’ when my guest Dr. Desiree Diaz, a professor in the college of nursing who is using simulation technology to fight stereotypes in medicine and train students like never before. I’ll see you then.
Desiree Diaz: I feel that I have an obligation to my professionals, simulationist, our simulation scientists to push that envelope, to push the line. What is OK, how can we make it better? To take the risks, to think about research in a different light. So not just in simulation pedagogy and how we’re going to teach it, but creating different ways of simulation, exploring holograms, exploring VR and working with colleagues to expand the science.