Why did you become a doctor?
I was determined to become a doctor while attending high school; at 18 years old I decided to enroll in medical school. Shortly after I was lucky enough to have been offered the possibility to spend an entire summer in La Jolla, California.
My focus was to improve my English, and what better way than on campus. Upon my return to the homeland this experience strongly motivated me to pursue my university career in Rome. The idea was to return to the states for my specialization and possibly even become a cardiac surgeon. However, that decision was only present in my mind after meeting a very famous Italian cardiac surgeon. Dr. Gaetano Azzolina, who was working in Italy, with a very impressive and extensive medical formation (completed in the USA). Nonetheless, was severely attacked for his willingness to bring new ideas and concepts to a very old and traditionally closed medical system. To me, he was my hero, and mentor I decided to try to follow his example. I was very enthusiastic and beyond motivated but also very successful in medical school. I understood early on that Dr. Azzolina, was not only right in his ideas and methodology, he was an excellent surgeon. Later, when I finished medical school, I came to the realization that my future wouldn’t have been cardiac surgery but a surgical specialty. Anyways, after spending a few years in Miami, studying for various foreign medical boards. I finally passed them and started my American residency in Flushing, NY., where I worked as an intern in general surgery. During my stay, I met one of my attending physicians, Dr. Robert Duca, MD a well-known orthopedic doctor who studied in Bologna. He guided me during my internship and taught me so much making me realize that my future would end up being orthopedic surgery. In 1996, I finally decided to return home and start my orthopedic residency at the University of Milan. I was very content to have a clearer vision of the future that awaited me. Looking back, I’m extremely grateful to all the teachers/professionals that helped me become an orthopedic surgeon.
Why did you chose your specialty?
As I mentioned previously, when I was a young student, my initial inclination was towards cardiac surgery. Later on, I realized that I’m more prepared to act as an emergency physician specifically in orthopedic surgery and trauma. Therefore, it has been very complementary to my mental approach in treating patients. I can easily say that money was never my concern, but rather personal satisfaction and enthusiasm. Especially when doing a complicated procedure and it surpasses my expectations. If money would have been my priority; then I would’ve chosen a more remunerative field, such us plastic surgery.
What are the good points of being a doctor? The bad ones?
I feel extremely lucky to be a professional in Medicine, especially because I choose it from early-on and moreover, for my own gratification. I will forever be grateful to my parents that strongly contributed to building my career. A Doctor is generally but (not always) respected; he is involved in people's life and tries his best to improve a patient's conditions/expectations. Oftentimes, listening and being a good psychologist and even a reliable friend. We can give answers that may change somebody's life and sometimes these answers aren’t pleasant. The worst part for a dedicated physician is not satisfying a patient's needs, by not finding the “perfect” diagnosis, or simply an unsuccessful treatment and/or communicating to a patient a reduced life expectancy. Unfortunately, these are situations that every doctor will deal with at some point during their professional career.
What makes FirstMed different from other places where you have practiced medicine?
After spending several years, abroad training and working outside of Italy (English-speaking world), I realized how important that was for my own evolution, nothing can give you better experience and preparation. For example, in dealing with medicine on many different levels: cultural, psychological, and even technical. When I was interviewed for the position at FirstMed, I saw in this project what I hoped to obtain in the last years of my careers. A familiar environment without the pressure and complications of hospitals and/or other medical organizations; I found the possibility of working in an international environment and partake in giving efficient medical service similar to a model very close to my own expectations.
What do you like most about practicing medicine at FirstMed?
Practicing medicine at FirstMed, gives me international visibility and offers me a wide range of opportunities in terms of meeting people from all over the world. A platform to measure my medical and communication skills; the atmosphere can be compared to that of a big family and our never-ending willingness to continually strive on improvement. Prioritizing, our patients and their needs and eventually directing them towards highly qualified specialists with whom we collaborate. Our approach is centered on teamwork, and we definitely emphasize implementing a good doctor/patient relationship in order to become a safe and reliable referral to our international community.
What do you consider when looking for a doctor for yourself or a family member?
When choosing a physician, I definitely look for a professional, who is competent and radiates a sense of security. I think a doctor must show dedication for his job and be absolutely up-to-date on the latest technology and techniques. I really appreciate when a doctor refers me to another specialist who may have better training and experience in a particular field. Rather than a colleague showing off to himself that he has an answer for everything. Basically, our knowledge is something generated by experience and I may have experience in a specific field of the same specialty but may not be properly trained for another type of matter.
Besides specific medical advice that you give to individual patients is there anything that you would recommend for people to stay as healthy as possible?
I think preventive medicine is the only weapon we have against cardiovascular diseases and tumors; research is becoming more advanced and constantly offering new solutions to medical conditions that weren’t curable in the past. Nevertheless, we still need to research and learn how to counteract the new developing modern diseases. I also believe that a balanced dietary regimen, as well as physical exercise, help to maintain a correct lifestyle. Consequently, they should be listed as preventive measures; furthermore, I think that a yearly check-up is very important, because this can help us to identify conditions that could eventually be treated effectively, if detected early on.
Thank you Dr. Castellani for the interview.