Ithaca College Quarterly 2005/1



A Spoonful of Sugar

Medical doctor Gregory DuQuella '92 finds passion for his profession the key to his success.

by J. R. Clairborne

Those who have it and act on it, says Gregory DuQuella '92, often find success. Greg, a medical doctor and the new hospitalist director for East Texas Medical Specialist (ETMS) at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview, is talking about passion, which he defines as a driving and intense love based on boundless enthusiasm.

His passion and determination have fueled Greg's zest for life and for his alma mater. They brought him from shy freshman in 1988 to involved student leader by the time he graduated. They took him from teaching chemistry at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, to medical school at Tufts University in Boston, and then to a residency at the University of Illinois in Chicago. And they have also brought him back to campus, where he readily shares his experiences with students. Amid this year's homecoming festivities he was the keynote speaker for the annual Professionals Symposium hosted by the Offices of Multicultural Affairs, Alumni Relations, and Career Services.

Greg DuQuella at this year's Professionals Symposium, speaking with students and other alumni

Greg has seized key opportunities to lead, especially in efforts to help people. At IC he was a peer counselor and held offices in the African-Latino Society, Kuumba Repertory Theater, and Focus on South Africa. At Tufts he was vice president of the Student National Medical Association, a recruiter for medical and graduate students of color, and a volunteer tutor for high school students. During his residency in Chicago, where he was in a combined program for internal medicine and pediatrics, Greg embarked on a healing mission of his own design: practicing tropical medicine in rural areas of Peru, Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. Today, the 35-year-old doctor is easily making the transition into his position as the first hospitalist director -- a new field in health care -- for ETMS. In this role he supervises a team of doctors and other medical staff who first establish a rapport with physicians with practices in the community. When the patients of those doctors are hospitalized, Greg and the specialist staff become the medical team for those patients. The personal attention given to the patients hearkens back to the days when doctors made house calls.

"The way you establish this business has a lot to do with being a good doctor, but also in being a good leader," explains Dr. John DiPasquale, ETMS executive director and co-medical director of Longview Emergency Medical Associates. "[Doctors and the medical staff] have to have a lot of confidence in you to let you meet their patients."

DiPasquale and co-director Dr. Stan Upchurch helped lure Greg, and his wife of less than two years, Dr. Chalene Corinaldi, who specializes in emergency medicine, from Chicago, where Greg had led hospital staff in a similar role at Midwest NeoPed Associates. Chalene now works as an emergency room physician and the emergency ultrasound director at Good Shepherd; she is also a faculty member at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where she teaches emergency ultrasound. DiPasquale views Greg's experience, natural ability, and charisma as key to helping establish the emerging field, particularly in Longview, where the closest large medical center is two hours away in Dallas. By providing top-notch patient care, Greg can help ETMS become a preferred treatment center, giving Longview residents the option to stay local for medical care.

Patients' Best Interest

Greg relishes the fact that the hospital becomes, in essence, his private practice, with an entire health care team at hand. Through him and the doctors he supervises, patients have access to nurses, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, and other health care providers.

In the medical arena, everyone from fellow physicians to patients recognizes the difference between a doctor simply doing his or her job and someone who acts with the patient's best interest at heart.

"[Greg] doesn't care whether a patient has insurance. He's going to take care of that patient just like you would every single person, whether they're homeless off the street or the CEO of the largest company in town," says DiPasquale. "That's just the kind of doctor he is. That's the kind of people you want in this business."

Greg speaks proudly, and with a sparkle in his eyes, of his charge to simply help people get well. But he knows that rarely is it any one patient's decision that makes her health improve. He talks wistfully about the expense of healthcare today and how his patients' decisions are based on external factors: waiting for health coverage to kick in, being forced to pick a new doctor because of a switch in health care plans, or simply knowing patients must try to optimize their doctor and hospital visits because a hospital stay can run into thousands of dollars.

"Health care is so expensive that some people just don't go to doctors anymore," Greg says. "If they can't afford health care they're not coming in when they first start coughing or when they first start having chest pains. They're coming in at the very end because they know health care is expensive."

August and September brought an added challenge to Greg in his new role when Katrina and Rita struck the Gulf Coast. Situated several hundred miles from the storms' epicenters, his medical facility was deluged for weeks afterward with overflow patients from the devastated areas. The hospital received patients by the caravan from nursing homes and other hospitals between Longview and cities like New Orleans in Louisiana and Houston, Beaumont, and Galveston in Texas. As the patients came in, the staff went to work, staying on the clock long after their shifts were over, coming in on their days off, and going out to check on patients at area shelters.

Greg credits much of his passion for the field of medicine to his time at Ithaca College. "At Ithaca," Greg says, "because of the wide variety of people, things to learn, experiences, and the weather, you kind of get the best of all worlds." He started out as a 3-2 chemical engineering student. Then he took a biology class from Vicki Cameron, currently the Dana Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

"She was just so excited about biology and biochemistry," he says. "She would sit down and explain, and you could see she loved what she was doing. I like that." DuQuella switched his major to biochemistry, and he added a writing minor. In his senior year he decided he would go into medicine, for a change of pace from lab work and because he wanted a more people-oriented field.

Deflecting the credit back on her former student, Cameron says she remembers Greg as a bright, inquisitive, and organized research student in her lab during her early days at the College. He had no trouble understanding complex scientific information. "Greg had a degree of confidence and assurance that was a real asset in our program," she says. "I am not surprised at all to discover that he has been an enormous success in life."

Greg enjoyed returning to Ithaca this fall and introducing his new wife to his alma mater and the town. "[Returning to campus] can invigorate alumni, reminding them of what it was like to be full of ideas and motivation," he muses. He plans to mentor students interested in medical careers, take on a larger role in future Professionals Symposia or alumni-student programs, and show Chalene more of his old stomping grounds.

One important aspect of mentoring students, Greg notes, is in convincing them, particularly students of color, to set goals and let no one prevent their accomplishment. During his time on campus, Greg says, several students asked for the "real story" when it comes to race, medical school, and practicing medicine. He knows of colleagues who were accused of not being qualified just because of their race or ethnicity. Such disparaging remarks are based on ignorance, he says, because "if you don't do your work in med school, you fail. By graduating, you prove people wrong."

Chalene and Greg met at a medical conference in Chicago, then lost touch with each other for three years. Once they reconnected, they saw each other regularly despite work pressures. "You make time to do the things you really love," Greg notes. "I made time to fall in love with her because the day I met her I knew she was the one."

Family Matters

The foreseeable future, says Greg, for him and Chalene will include settling down in Longview, paying off student loans, building stronger ties to family (Chalene has family two hours away), and looking at starting their own. He likes to read or hang out with friends; she loves dance, music, and playing her violin. They schedule time together for church, just being together, and travel.

Greg's travels to Latin America gave him the chance to practice medicine in regions not as equipped with technological advancements. Here he learned from other doctors how to rely on skill, imagination, and innovation, not just tools and machines. He hopes to return to the region one day, perhaps with medical groups traveling to the area to perform relief work. But right now he's concentrating on life in Longview. "Things are looking good," Greg says. "I don't have to make millions of dollars. Just as long as my wife is happy and we're doing well."

DiPasquale sees this as typical Greg, and he wishes that type of thinking were more prevalent. He sees too many students doing what they think their parents or other adults want them to do, not what the students want to do. The ripple effect is an impediment to a true sense of accomplishment.

"Whatever anyone decides to do in life, if they'll have passion for it, they'll be successful," DiPasquale says. "You can recognize that in Greg's eyes. He's passionate about [practicing medicine]."

Talking to Greg, one gets the clear signal that he's absolutely passionate about his chosen field, and he couldn't be happier. "I could sit around and talk about medicine for years," he says simply. "I love doing it."

[credit] Photos by Sheryl D. Sinkow

[caption for him talking with other people; photo of him solo does not need a caption]

Greg DuQuella at this year's Professionals Symposium, speaking with students and other alumni

Photos by Sheryl D. Sinkow

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