Shands home to several pairs of sibling doctors


UF Health at Shands Hospital oncologists and brothers Long and Nam Dang Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 8, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

We hear a lot about sibling rivalry, but camaraderie among siblings is a powerful influence, too — especially if they choose the same career.

UF Health Shands Hospital has several pairs of doctor siblings — some of whom work side by side.

Drs. Nam and Long Dang, both oncologists, are 11 months apart. They share a childhood that began in Vietnam and schooling that includes Harvard Medical School, where they shared a studio apartment. They were recruited together to the University of Florida.

“We came a week apart,” Nam Dang said. “We came as a package.”

Today, although the Dangs have different specializations, they share multiple patients.

“The patients never confuse who is who,” Long Dang said.

Indeed, Nam, the eldest brother, is tall and chatty, while Long is short and reserved. Long plays tennis and Nam basketball.

But they live two miles apart in Haile Plantation and share an upbringing that placed a premium on education.

Nam was 12 years old and Long 11 when they came to America as refugees with their parents and older sister, who is also a doctor. Their father was a math professor turned computer scientist after moving here and their mother a pharmacist turned social worker.

“When we came over here, we had nothing except the value of education,” Long said.

One of their first memories of America was the mirage of gleaming white “refrigerators” lined up at a refugee camp. They ran toward them hungrily only to discover the refrigerators were actually commodes, Nam remembers.

“I never complain about life because I know what can happen,” he said, adding that they had seen a lot of death and destruction in Vietnam.

The family settled in Texas, and the brothers excelled in school and knew by the time they went to college that they wanted to be doctors. Then they hopscotched around each other to establish their careers.

Nam said he thinks being through so much together in their childhood influenced their decision to stay close as adults.

“When you get uprooted as kids, you don’t know what the future will bring,” he said.

Drs. Brian and Dan Hoh, both neurosurgeons, also hail from an immigrant family. Their parents were first-generation Korean immigrants who also valued education. The family settled in Omaha, Neb., where their father was a business professor.

Brian is four years older than Dan. “As all brothers, we wrestled, fought, threw rocks at each other,” Brian said.

They also had similar interests and talents, which led them to Stanford University and Columbia University for college and medical school. They shared the same mentor at Columbia before branching off into different neurosurgery specializations: Brian, chief of the neurovascular program, helps manage conditions such as stroke and aneurysms, and Dan is a spinal surgeon.

Dan said the age difference between them minimized sibling rivalry.

“As we get older, the age difference seems less,” he added.

Drs. Larry and Richard Lottenberg grew up in a medical family — their father was a doctor and their mother a medical assistant.

“I used to watch him (my father) take care of patients,” said Larry Lottenberg, who is one year older than Richard. “For me, it was a natural career path.”

Larry also considered becoming a fireman, so it’s not surprising that he ended up in the ER — as a trauma surgeon.

“You have to love it to do it,” he said. “It’s tireless work.”

If Larry’s world within UF Health Shands Hospital is fast-paced, always changing and involves thinking on his feet, Richard’s is that of a research scientist and clinician.

Although the two studied together at UF, they ended up in vastly different fields. Richard is a hematologist/oncologist who has specialized in treating patients with sickle-cell diseases.

Another younger brother who lives in California is a clinical psychologist who trained as a radiologist.

“Our mother was proud of telling people that she had three sons who were doctors,” Larry said.

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