New Hampshire 2013 Top Doctor Q&As

Interviews with six NH Top Doctors




Dr. David Hou, M.D. 2013 New Hampshire Top Doctor
Dr. David Hou, M.D.
Photo by Mark Corliss

David Hou, M.D.

Radiology
Concord Hospital
Concord Imaging Center

Why medicine? Why the field you chose?
Radiology is one of the most dynamic specialties in medicine today.  As a radiologist I have the opportunity to interact with colleagues across all medical specialties and be the “doctor’s doctor.” Physicians use imaging, whether it be an X-ray, ultrasound, cat-scan or MRI to help determine your diagnosis, and it is the radiologist that looks at those images and puts the pieces of the puzzle together. Imaging studies are becoming more and more integral to the practice of medicine and it's a privilege to be able to participate in all aspects of a patient’s care.

What makes a great doctor?
Being able to connect and understand the needs and desires of your patients. Compassion and empathy are both important, but so is the desire to continue learning and innovating, especially in this rapidly changing medical environment.

Exciting development in your field?
Radiology has changed rapidly in recent years.  Advances in technology have dramatically increased our ability to catch early cancer or perform more directed therapies with X-ray guidance.  This has improved our ability to identify and treat diseases quicker and with less side effects.

Most rewarding aspect of your work?
I have the opportunity to help guide patient management in a real and effective manner as well as catching sinister diseases early enough to prevent them from causing further harm to patients.

Any misconceptions about your specialty?
Many patients I come across today do not know that a radiologist is a physician. The days of radiologists sitting alone in a dark room reading X-rays are a thing of the past. Radiologists are involved in direct patient care on a daily basis. When you have an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the breast or a CT-guided biopsy of your lung, it is often a radiologist who is performing the procedure and playing a role in your overall care.

Rx for staying healthy?
Enjoy the great outdoors as much as you can. Living in New Hampshire, we have access to year-round activities such as hiking, biking, swimming and snowshoeing that do not cost much, particularly in these challenging economic times. Fresh air and sunshine can change both your physical and mental state of being for the better.

Do you have a motto or philosophy that guides you?
Sir William Osler, “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?
I am blessed with an amazing wife and two young twin daughters who are always ready to play a game of hide and seek or go for a walk in the woods. When I need some alone time, I like to spend time in my wood shop.


Dr. George Neal, M.D.
Dr. George Neal, M.D., P.C.
Photo by Mark Corliss

George Neal, M.D., P.C.

Sleep Disorders
CMC/PMC

Why medicine? Why the field you chose?
I pursued a career in medicine initially because of the science of it, and its practical value to solve problems for people. At first a neurologist, I became interested in sleep medicine as a sub-speciality of neurology for similar reasons, and found that effective treatment of sleep disorders has substantial benefit for patients in terms of general quality of life and overall health.

What makes a great doctor?
Diffferent doctors are great in many ways. I personally admire doctors whose discipline involves wide areas of medical knowledge,  particularly family doctors, internal medicine physicians and infectious disease specialists.

Exciting development in your field?
One of the most exciting developments in recent years has been the discovery of specific neurotransmitters in the brain, deficiency of which explains the symptoms of narcolepsy. It will be interesting to see how this impacts treatment of the condition in the future.

Any misconceptions about your specialty?
Misconceptions in the field of sleep medicine I think are fairly uncommon today, as a good deal of attention has been paid in the press to the importance of healthy sleep and treatment of sleep disorders. In recent years it has become widely known that untreated sleep apnea is related to a variety of important health conditions.

Most rewarding aspect of your work?
One of the most exciting aspects of my work is to witness successful treatment of sleep disorders, which have substantial impact on peoples’ lives. One common example is sleep apnea, treatment of which often leads to a very profound benefit.

How do you put patients at ease?
A friendly and interested demeanor is often helpful in relieving any apprehension and facilitating a visit.

What can patients bring to the patient/doctor relationship?
The relationship seems to work best for resolution of a health problem when communication is established well and maintained over time. A willingness to share concerns and symptoms is fundamental to the relationship. On a different level and, more literally, it is often helpful for a patient to bring a bed partner or sleep eyewitness to the doctor visit.

Do you have a motto or philosophy that guides you?
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in a doctor’s book. - Irish proverb

RX for staying healthy?
In sleep medicine, as in other areas of medicine, healthy habits and health education go a long way to maintaining well-being.

What do you do to relive stress and leave work behind?
I prefer outdoor activities, often with family, and landscape/nature photography.


Dr. Emily Baker, M.D. 2013 New Hampshire Top Doctor
Dr. Emily Baker, M.D.
Photo by Mark Corliss

Emily Baker, M.D.

Maternal Fetal Medicine
DHMC/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Concord

Why medicine? Why the field you chose?
In school I had interests in all the sciences including social science. My college major was psychology and picking medicine seemed a natural fit. I chose maternal fetal medicine as it allowed me to combine my interest in medical illness and the impact on pregnancy and to continue to provide obstetrical care. 

What makes a great doctor?
It’s mostly about the ability to communicate well with patients, families and team members. You need knowledge, skills and experience, but being able to help someone requires the ability to have a successful patient physician relationship.   

Exciting development in your field?
We are finally developing tools to decrease the risk of premature birth for many women. 

Most rewarding aspect of your work? Most difficult?
The most rewarding aspect is to be able to help a family celebrate the success of a difficult pregnancy.  The hardest thing I do is relate bad news to a family.  Having a baby that has serious problems or dies is probably the most devastating event in a family’s life.  Being able to help someone through that difficult life event is rewarding but very hard. 

Any misconceptions about your specialty?
We may be seen as only dealing with fetal evaluation by ultrasound or amniocentesis. Our work is more broad including maternal medical illness and obstetrical complications such as premature labor.  Many maternal fetal medicine physicians spend the majority of their time in the inpatient setting. 

How do you put patients at ease?
Allowing patients to tell their story without much interruption allows them to feel confident that you will take them seriously.

Rx for staying healthy?
A healthy diet and physician activity will decrease the chance for obesity or allow weight loss. 

What can patients bring to the patient/doctor relationship?
It is helpful for a patient to be prepared with questions and to bring a family member to the visit. We aren’t given as much time as we like with a patient so any preparation that they make facilitates safe and effective health care. 

What do you do to relieve stress and leave work behind?
Physical activity works wonders. I play hockey and do CrossFit workouts. 

Do you have a motto or philosophy that guides you?
Take care of every patient as if he or she was a family member of yours.


Dr. Claire Fabian, M.D. 2013 New Hampshire Top Doctor
Dr. Claire Fabian, M.D.
Photo by Mark Corliss

Claire Fabian, M.D.

Pathology
Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene

Why medicine? Why the field you chose?
My father, Herbert Perlman, was a radiologist for 30 years. He inspired me to become a doctor. My father enjoyed the interaction with his colleagues and the challenge of a lifetime learning experience. I wanted to feel the same way about my work life and I chose pathology because, like radiologists, pathologists are often referred to as the doctor’s doctor. We help guide our colleagues in patient care and we enjoy very close relationships with other physicians, particularly surgeons and oncologists.

What makes a great doctor?
Great doctors have a great team surrounding and supporting them. In pathology that team includes all of the experienced laboratory technicians including histology technicians and phlebotomists. Great doctors also learn from wonderful mentors. My partner, Dr. Alex Bonica, is the director of our laboratory and has mentored me since the day I completed my residency. And, above all, I believe that compassion and passion are essential traits for all doctors.

Exciting development in your field?
One of the most exciting developments in pathology is the advent of molecular testing. This type of testing is very specific for helping diagnose diseases and is becoming very important in the development of personalized therapies targeting individual tumors.

Most rewarding aspect of your work? Most difficult?
At Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene, we benefit from using a team approach. As a member of the team, I enjoy the stimulation of interacting with my colleagues in an effort to provide the best care for our patients. Pathology can be a solitary occupation since we spend a majority of our time alone with a microscope. Having wonderful technologists in the laboratory and dedicated fellow physicians helps makes the job so much more gratifying. 

Any misconceptions about your specialty?
Many people think that pathologists only perform autopsies when in fact we spend most of our time diagnosing diseases on tissue specimens. We also direct the clinical laboratories in most hospital settings.

Rx for staying healthy?
A strong dose of willpower is important for staying healthy. This fortitude is necessary to maintain a well-balanced diet, moderate exercise and plenty of rest. Healthy, supportive relationships can also help strengthen and sustain that determination to stay healthy.


Dr. James Becht, M.D. 2013 New Hampshire Top Doctor
Dr. James Becht, M.D.
Photo by Mark Corliss

James Becht, M.D.

Radiation Oncology
Radiation Oncology Assosciates of New England
Elliot/WDH

Why medicine? Why the field you chose?
The choice of medicine began purely as an intellectual interest of applying basic science to understanding and solving medical problems. The biology of malignancy/malignant cells was of great interest to me. Radiation oncology allows me to manage patients with challenging medical problems but to also apply a very powerful technology to treat malignant diseases.

What makes a great doctor?
A great doctor needs to find the proper balance of truth and compassion when caring for people with difficult, often life-altering medical problems. You must allow the patient to educate you. I would like to emphasize that as a part of Radiation Oncology Associates-New England I have the privilege of working with 13 other well-trained, highly talented radiation oncologists who provide cancer care to a large part of NH and northern Massachusetts. They make me a better doctor every day I work with them. They are all equally deserving of this recognition.

Most rewarding aspect of your work?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is being able to work with people during one of the most challenging times of their lives. It is truly a privilege that I am able to do this.

Most difficult?
I’m often distressed by all of the other social and financial challenges that patients must deal with while being treated for cancer. We try to provide support for all needs of the patient — and great credit and recognition must be given to the nursing staff, radiation therapists and social service workers that provide so much of that.

Any misconceptions about your specialty?
In general, I think the greatest misapprehension about the field of oncology is that it’s depressing. I find it enormously rewarding, fulfilling and challenging. I can't imagine doing anything else.

How do you put patients at ease?
To put patients at ease, I listen. No matter how busy things may be, I try to make the patient the center of my attention when I am with them. They deserve it and there is so much to learn from them.

Rx for staying healthy?
Take responsibility for your health. Demand the information you need to make the best informed decision for you.

Do you have a motto or philosophy that guides you?
I continue to be guided by advice given by my principal mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital almost 30 years ago: “Take pride in meticulous attention to detail.” 


Dr. George Chatson, M.D. 2013 New Hampshire Top Doctor
Dr. George Chatson, M.D.
Photo by Mark Corliss

George Chatson, M.D.

Plastic Surgery
Andover/Nashua Plastic Surgery
SJH/SNHMC

Why medicine? Why the field you chose?
I chose plastic surgery because it provides me with unique challenges to solve a diverse array of problems with the appearance and structure of patients from head to toe. It requires creativity and attention to detail — both of which fascinate me. Being a plastic surgeon requires that I strive to constantly improve the quality of my work.

What makes a great doctor?
A great doctor is able to realize that each time they see a patient with a medical need or a problem, the patient’s concern is foremost on the mind of that patient and it is of great importance. A great doctor communicates with that patient in a manner in which the patient senses both the doctor’s genuine concern for the patient and dedication to addressing the problem in the best way possible.

Exciting development in your field?
Breast implants have long been used in both patients desiring cosmetic breast augmentation as well as breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Round silicone gel breast implants have been available since 2006 and have worked well. New silicone gel breast implants, which have a natural breast shape and feel, are now available and are likely to produce better, more natural results in patients.

Most rewarding aspect of your work? Most difficult?
The most rewarding aspect and the most difficult aspect of being a plastic surgeon are related to the same concept: plastic surgery results in an immediate and permanent change in someone’s appearance. Most patients are very pleased with the changes resulting from their surgical procedure and it is very gratifying to see them experience this satisfaction. Sometimes, it takes a long time for a patient to fully recover or heal from their procedure and their expectations have not been met. It takes patience to help a patient through this process and good judgment is required to know when a patient would benefit from a procedure to improve their result.

Any misconceptions about your specialty?
Some patients have the misconception that when plastic surgeons perform surgery no visible scar will result. This misconception arises because, in many instances, patients who undergo plastic surgery do indeed have scars that heal very well, are placed in natural existing facial lines or in inconspicuous areas and are not easily visible. However, patients differ with respect to the degree in which they form scar tissue and scars in some patients are more visible than in others. 

What can patients bring to the patient/doctor relationship?
It is the responsibility of the doctor to explain the medical aspects of the patient’s situation in terms that are understandable to the patient. If this does not occur, then the patient should feel comfortable questioning their doctor about their diagnosis and planned treatment.

What do you do to relive stress and leave work behind?
I love to go saltwater fishing with my family and friends.

Do you have a motto or philosophy that guides you?
I believe that it is a tremendous privilege to perform surgery on patients. I try to keep that foremost in my mind so that I perform procedures to the very best of my abilities every time.

How do you put patients at ease?
I try to put patients at ease by demonstrating knowledge and experience with managing their particular concern or problem as well as anticipating possible outcomes and scenarios that they may experience during their recovery from a particular procedure. Patients know that a result cannot be guaranteed, but they are at ease when they sense my confidence in my ability to produce a good result with their particular need.

RX for staying healthy?
It is possible to prevent serious problems from skin cancer by having your doctor regularly check your skin for suspicious lesions. Areas of skin that may be more likely to become skin cancer in the future can then be treated early so that a major skin cancer operation in the future can be avoided.

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