David Graham, M.D. (MED ‘8, I ’90, HEMO ’93)
(originally ran in 2015)
Medical Director, Western Region
Levine Cancer Institute
Charlotte, North Carolina
“[At Mayo Clinic] I was struck by a feeling of grandeur and awe that persists to this day.”
- Fellowship: Hematology/Oncology, Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education
- Residency: Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education
- Medical School: Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
- Undergraduate: University of South Dakota, Vermillion
- Native of: My father was in the Air Force, so I didn’t live anywhere more than four years until I moved to Rochester for medical school.
Why did you decide to pursue medicine?
I developed a love for science at a fairly early age. That interest increased because of medical interactions for me and my family members, including a number at Mayo. In high school I took every available science class and was active in forensics and debate. When the time came to choose between law and medicine, I made the best choice for me.
Why did you train at Mayo Clinic?
At the time I applied to medical school, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine was still affiliated with the University of Minnesota and took only four out-of-state applications a year. I applied anyway. Then the school disaffiliated from the university, and out-of-state slots jumped to 10. I made the waitlist. I got a call from then-Dean Dr. Roy Rogers (DERM ’73). My roommate took the call and thought it was a friend playing a joke because the caller identified as Roy Rogers. He finally realized the call was legitimate and gave me the information.
What was your initial impression of Mayo Clinic?
I had been at Mayo a number of times. My aunt had a kidney transplant there, and I had a scar revision surgery. It was a completely different feeling going into orientation for medical school and hearing that first talk about the Mayo milieu. I was struck by a feeling of grandeur and awe that persists to this day.
How does Mayo Clinic influence your practice?
Two easy words — patient first. From how I dress (no lab coats), to how I address the patients, to apologizing if I am late, to still trying to figure out the best way to maintain personal contact when I have to spend more and more time looking at the computer screen. My Mayo training impacts all of that.
What valuable lesson did you learn at Mayo Clinic?
I learned that no test, lab, scan, etc. is infallible. Everything has false positives and false negatives. If something doesn’t make sense, repeat it if you have to.
What do you contribute to the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association?
I think I can bring a perspective of the private practice physician. Many graduates from all levels of Mayo training end up in academic practices. That has not been my path. In addition, my penchant for traveling has given me some perspective of some of the unique international issues my fellow alumni face.
What do you do in your spare time?
I read a lot and am a movie buff. I have also started to follow the lead of Dr. Joseph Rubin (I ’72, HEM ’74, ONCL ’75), who was the chair of the medical oncology department when I was training. He took one to two trips overseas a year to what seemed at the time like very exotic places. I try and get out of the country once or twice a year now. Destinations have included Portugal, Istanbul, Slovenia, Brussels and Croatia. I try to reach out to Mayo alumni during my travels. Those interactions follow the precedent set by Drs. Charlie and Will and can be very rewarding.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
In the late 1960s my family lived in Japan. The priest on the military base and some of the kids, including me, were used in a commercial for the Japanese version of Twinkies. It was filmed in Nagasaki at Madame Butterfly’s house. To this day I cannot eat a Twinkie.