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2 Minutes with Phillip Fleshner, M.D.

Dr. Phillip R. Fleshner was recently named the Shierley, Jesslyne and Emmeline Widjaja Chair in Colorectal Surgery. We sat down with him to talk about this recent honor among other things.

Congratulations on receiving the endowed chair. How did it come about?

The donor is from Indonesia and was unable to get state-of-the-art treatment there or anywhere else in Asia. She came to the U.S. in 2007 and we were able to perform a successful surgery. She is now living a happy and healthy life. The Widjajas named the chair after their three daughters.

What will the donation be used for?

The donation will ensure continued funding of the colorectal surgery residency program and sponsor a novel surgical education interchange. Starting this June, I along with our fellow and an operating room nurse will travel to Singapore each year to teach surgeons how to do what we do so well at Cedars-Sinai. Within five years, I hope that all physicians in Singapore will be proficient in the surgical management of inflammatory bowel disease.

You started the colorectal surgery residency seven years ago. Why do you think this type of program is important?

Quite simply, I believe that being a doctor is a privilege. I feel good making people healthy and I believe that every physician owes society the responsibility of passing knowledge to the next generation. Our division leads the region in colorectal surgery, allowing us to "give back" academically and train future colorectal surgeons.

What drew you to your specialty?

I knew I wanted to be a surgeon after my surgical clerkship in medical school. While doing my residency in New York City, I spent a month with Dr. Randy Steinhagen, a colorectal surgeon at Mount-Sinai Medical Center. The passion he had taking care of patients was infectious, and he inspired me to become a colorectal surgeon. Colorectal surgery allows me to treat people in the worst part of their lives and make things better.

You are from Montreal, why did you decide to stay in the United States after your residency?

I think there are limitless clinical, academic and research opportunities in the U.S. Canada can be somewhat confining.

What do you do in your free time?

I spend time with my wife and three kids. Both my boys play ice hockey - Jewish ice hockey players in So Cal are kind of rare. My daughter plays competitive club volleyball.

When the U.S. and Canada played during the Olympics, which team did you cheer for?

My boys and I were in Vancouver for the final hockey game. Until that game, I had never been to a game where I wanted both teams to win. I was very proud of both my boys since during the game they were proudly wearing U.S. flags around their bodies.

Dr. Fleshner is also program director of the Colorectal Surgery Residency and a member of the Department of Surgery and the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Cedars-Sinai. You can reach him at Phillip.Fleshner@cshs.org.