Q&As with Five of 2015's Top Doctors

Q&As with five of the Top Doctors from the 2015 Top Doctors Poll

Visit our searchable Top Doctors database for winners from the 2014 and 2015 Top Doctors Polls. The doctors featured here are 2015 Top Doctors.

Melissa L. Borthwick, M.D. 

General/Family Practice
Elliot Family Medicine at Manchester

What inspired you to become a doctor? My grandfather was a physician, and so is my dad. When the time came to pick a career, medicine seemed a natural path. Nowadays I think less about what inspired me to become a doctor and more about what inspires me to continue doctoring, which is the daily opportunity to impact someone’s life in a tangible and fulfilling way.

Describe a defining moment in your career that affirmed your decision. Last year I helped care for a patient who was quite ill. Due to an unfortunate constellation of events, multiple road blocks were preventing him from getting the care he needed. Over the course of about 10 hours, I had several difficult conversations with folks all over the state; but at the end of the day, I got him to a place that could offer him a real shot at survival. That night when I went home I felt I had accomplished something truly meaningful. A year later, I still think of him and am so grateful I got to contribute to his care in that way.

What makes a great doctor? My professional role models are all very different people. But when I think of them as physicians, the similarities I see include: the ability to synthesize a large amount of information quickly and lead a team in a cohesive and sensible direction, the fortitude to say what needs to be said (especially when it’s not what folks want to hear) and an unwavering recognition of everyone’s humanity.

Best single tip for staying healthy? I’m stealing my answer from Michael Pollan: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Fred H. Brennan Jr., D.O.

Sports Medicine
Seacoast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

What inspired you to become a doctor? I think like many of us who become physicians there is an inner calling that drives us to care for others. During school breaks as a young child I accompanied my mother as she provided nursing care services to elderly patients in their home. She truly loved caring for them and it was clear that those patients appreciated her compassion and dedication. She inspired and encouraged me to become a physician. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Describe a defining moment in your career that affirmed your decision. I proudly served 11 years on active duty as an Army physician and I am now a physician in the NH Air National Guard. From February 2003 to February 2004 I deployed to the deserts of Iraq and the city of Baghdad in the emergency department of the 28th Combat Support Hospital. Caring for US forces, coalition forces and injured Iraqi citizens was a difficult but incredibly rewarding experience. We saved a lot of lives during that year. There was no doubt in my mind that I was brought there for a reason and that becoming a physician was the right choice for me.

What makes a great doctor? A great doctor takes the time to listen to his/her patients completely and without judgment.  He or she looks at their patients as a whole person and not just a sum of many organ systems. A great doctor is compassionate, genuinely wants to help, and never stops learning the art and science of medicine.

Best single tip for staying healthy? There is no doubt that the best tip for staying healthy is regular exercise. Whether it is going for a 30-minute walk, yard work, swimming, skiing, etc., exercise is the best medicine for prevention of illness and promotion of good health. 

Marcus Hermansen, M.D.

SNHMC/St. Joseph Hospital

What inspired you to become a doctor? My mother was accepted to medical school in the 1940s, but chose to have a family instead. (Back then a woman generally couldn’t do both.)  I was always good with math and science, and when I heard of my mother’s story my decision to enter medicine was easy. Although she had passed away when I was only 10 years old, I am sure she was smiling with me when I received my medical diploma.  

Describe a defining moment in your career that affirmed your decision. As a young medical student I saw that neonatology offered a rewarding blend of basic science, clinical medicine, cutting-edge technology, and social/family challenges; all this while caring for some of the sickest patients seen in medicine.

What makes a great doctor? Great doctors listen to their patients — listen to their complaints, concerns, and desires.  They discuss the medicine and listen carefully to their patient’s wishes. Listen to what they say and what they do not say.  Listen to their words, their eyes, their mannerisms and behaviors.  The patient guides our actions as much as we guide theirs.

Best single tip for staying healthy? Please immunize your children — for their health and that of our society.

Keith J. McAvoy, M.D.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester/CMC/Elliot Hospital

What inspired you to become a doctor? The most significant inspiring factor was that as a physician I knew that I would have the opportunity to apply the information that I enjoyed learning about to patient issues, and hopefully, positively impact their lives. I was especially drawn to the field of Neurology as there was and continues to be exciting new developments as well as practical applications in the neurosciences.

Describe a defining moment in your career that affirmed your decision. Early in my career, I was asked by a colleague to see a patient on an urgent basis. He was experiencing some ominous neurologic symptoms and I was able to evaluate and scan him the same day. We diagnosed him with a rare type of cerebrovascular fistula and transferred him to a tertiary care facility for immediate intervention.  The positive outcome that he experienced and the appreciation expressed towards me afterwards by the patient and his family went a long way to affirm my career choice as a physician.

What makes a great doctor? In my opinion the most important is the ability to listen to a patient and apply that information in order to convey  an appropriate plan of care. An approachable, calm and re-assuring demeanor is also important. If you can treat your patients as if they were your own family members, that will go a long way.

Best single tip for being healthy? As a neurologist, I believe that staying active is the single most important factor in maintaining good health. This involves exercising the mind as well as the body.  In addition to improving quality of life, reading and exercising the body can delay and slow the progression of numerous neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Lawrence Hoepp, M.D.

Vascular Surgery
Elliot Hospital/CMC
Elliot General Surgery Specialists

What inspired you to become a doctor? I think as far back as I can remember I wanted to become a physician. It wasn’t until medical school that I focused on surgery. This is a field where, in addition to medical care, you can make one major decisive intervention and hopefully completely resolve a patient’s problem or disease process. Of course, the risks are increased but also are the benefits, so the procedure must be accomplished flawlessly. This striving for perfection in each procedure has inspired my career.

Describe a defining moment in your career that affirmed your decision. The defining moment was my surgical residency program. I was fortunate to be matched at Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester. Here one of the most extraordinary assemblages of surgical talent was present at one time. Doctor Charles Rob and Doctor James DeWeese were two of the very top vascular surgeons at this time  and Doctor Seymour Schwartz, who actually wrote the textbook of surgery, and was one of the most gifted intellectual and technical surgeons of all time were my mentors. When I finished this training program, I knew I could handle any case that came along.

What makes a great doctor? A great doctor is one who is committed to the best care of his patients even though it could be 24/7 responsibility. In addition a great doctor continually self-educates to keep abreast of new developments and treatments in their field and medicine in general.

Best single tip for staying healthy?  We cannot control our genes nor can we all look or eat like Doctor Oz, but moderation in eating, exercise and avoidance of smoking will give everyone a good chance at a long and healthy life.

Categories: Top Doctor QAs