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Son follows father’s footsteps as doctor

Dr. Michael Fiorina hoods his son, Dr. Chris Fiorina, at Chris’s graduation from medical school at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine last month. Submitted Photo

Listening to Dr. Michael Fiorina and Dr. Chris Fiorina banter, one could easily take the two as lifelong friends.

“When I was in medical school, it was much harder,” Michael said. “We had to walk uphill. Both ways.”

It only becomes clear that they are father and son when Chris forces a laugh and playfully rolls his eyes like only a son can do when his father tells a “dad” joke.

Michael, chief medical officer of Butler Memorial Hospital and Clarion Hospital, never encouraged any of his four children to become doctors. He knows firsthand the sacrifices it takes to be a successful physician. What Michael and his wife, Kristen, have encouraged is a sense of “servant leadership.”

“The best leaders are the people who serve the community and serve people the best,” Michael said. “Truly the best leaders in history are the best servants. To me, the ability to help other people, I see as a gift from God.”

Healing Pair

Listening to Dr. Michael Fiorina and Dr. Chris Fiorina banter, one could easily take the two as lifelong friends.

“When I was in medical school, it was much harder,” Michael said. “We had to walk uphill. Both ways.”

It only becomes clear that they are father and son when Chris forces a laugh and playfully rolls his eyes like only a son can do when his father tells a “dad” joke.

Michael, chief medical officer of Butler Memorial Hospital and Clarion Hospital, never encouraged any of his four children to become doctors. He knows firsthand the sacrifices it takes to be a successful physician. What Michael and his wife, Kristen, have encouraged is a sense of “servant leadership.”

“The best leaders are the people who serve the community and serve people the best,” Michael said. “Truly the best leaders in history are the best servants. To me, the ability to help other people, I see as a gift from God.”

Chris, Michael’s eldest son, has seen the type of sacrifices his father made.

“I’ve seen him make sacrifices,” Chris said. “He would miss holidays, family gatherings and family events. He worked very hard to be able to get to the position that he is at.”

Until about two years ago, Michael had spent a majority of his life in private practice as a family practice physician.

“As a family practice physician at Butler hospital, I did inpatient rounds, I did my clinic, I took care of newborns, and I took care of the elderly,” Michael said.

His passion to serve the community he’s been part of since 1998 had a profound effect on Chris — who graduated from Butler Senior High School.

“I remember my dad working awful, awful hours for a family physician,” Chris said. “I remember him getting up before Christmas morning to do his rounds with his patients in the hospital so he could make Christmas morning with the family. Seeing that motivation and that dedication to a craft is definitely something that’s very inspirational.”

Even after seeing all that his father endured, Chris still pursued becoming a doctor.

Much like his father, Chris was drawn to the sciences in high school, but it was not until the summer after his freshman year of college that Chris knew he wanted to be a doctor.

“I did research in Bolivia at an orphanage,” Chris said. “I was looking at the vaccination rates at the orphanage, and I saw the doctors and the impact they were making not only at the orphanage but in the community.”

Just like Michael and his wife had instilled in their children, Chris was able to see the power that comes with helping others.

“Between seeing those doctors and seeing the difference my dad was making in our community back in Butler, that’s something I really, really enjoyed. It’s something that was profound for me and made me very motivated to become a physician,” Chris said.

And while Michael never pushed for his son to become a doctor, it seemed inevitable that Chris would travel a similar path as his father. Both Michael and Chris graduated from Washington & Jefferson College for undergraduate and later, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In May, Michael was not only able to watch his son graduate medical school, he was able to participate in the ceremony.

“The ceremony to become a physician you get a hood placed over your head and neck,” Michael said. “Since I graduated from the same medical school, they allowed me to come up on stage and to place the hood. It was symbolic.”

Chris is entering into a five-year general surgery residency at UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh.

He was one of four selected out of 1,400 applicants.

“That’s how competitive some of these residency programs are,” Michael said. “This isn’t 1,400 people who are just coming in off the street. These are 1,400 people who graduated from medical school, not only from the United States but across the world.”

Michael knows how challenging a residency can be for a young doctor.

“For residency, I told many people that if you offered me a million dollars to do it again, ‘no way I would put myself through that,’” Michael said. “But I also say, if you offered me a million dollars to eliminate that experience from my life, ‘absolutely not.’

“The residency truly shapes you and makes you who you are as a physician.”

And while both Michael and Chris now share the same profession, their careers are on different trajectories.

“The big difference is I did a family medicine residency,” Michael said. “Chris is doing a surgery residency at Mercy. So even though we’re both physicians, our careers are going to be quite different, to be honest.”

But even as Chris pursues a slightly different path, he still knows he can call on his dad for advice.

“I have to admit, although I don’t want to admit it,” Chris said. “There were some times on rounds in the morning I would ask him a question over text. The mentorship is very nice to have and very available.”

And Michael is happy to help his son.

“I might deny saying it, but he’s achieving at a higher level then I have,” Michael said with a grin.

While that may be the case, dad still likes to playfully let his son know “I have a lot more letters behind my name,” Michael said.

Dr. Michael Fiorina and his son Dr. Chris Fiorina at Chris's graduation from medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in May. Submitted Photo

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