Siblings on Same Mission Wind Up Together at Einstein
One in a continuing series
Perhaps it’s not unlikely that a brother and sister who experienced the grave illness and death of a sibling when they were children would grow up to become physicians.
What’s less likely is that they would both wind up in the same city, in the same healthcare network, in leadership positions in their separate medical specialties.
Rabia Choudry, MD, is Chief of Neurology at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. Rashad Choudry, MD, is Division Chair of Vascular Surgery at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. They consult on cases together. They get calls and emails from people trying to reach the other. They are often assumed to be husband and wife.
In fact, Rashad’s wife does work at Einstein, but her last name isn’t Choudry. Sue Y. Lee, MD, is an orthopedic hand surgeon at Einstein Philadelphia. And she led the way to Einstein.
Rashad was 10 years old and Rabia was seven when their infant brother was diagnosed with a genetic blood disorder and died at the age of two-and-a-half. Rashad had donated his bone marrow at a time when transplants were not yet routine.
“Ultimately, he didn’t survive,” Rashad says, “and he spent a long and arduous year-and-a half at the hospital. He didn’t come home except for a couple of days at a time. That left a very strong impact on why we pursued our careers.”
Rashad was drawn to vascular surgery because he wanted to do something other than prescribe medication to a patient. “Our tragedy convinced me that medicine isn’t the only thing that can help the human body,” he says. “I wanted to do something procedurally oriented and it made me gravitate towards surgery.”
Rabia was attracted to neurology because “one of our grandparents developed dementia.”
Some Degree of Rivalry
The Choudry siblings are not competitive, although there was some degree of rivalry when they were young. Though Rabia “is the smart one,” Rashad says, he was three years ahead of her in school and had a stellar reputation she needed to live up to.
In addition to the tragedy of their brother’s illness and death, they also bonded as children over the hostility they faced as “foreigners,” Rashad says. He was born in Pakistan. Rabia was born in the U.S. after the family emigrated.
“It was my self-assigned responsibility to look out for her,” Rashad says. “There was some level of racism in Staten Island, NY where we lived and that automatically bonds siblings to make sure no one will hurt them. We were very defensive and protective of each other.”
The two are very close inside and outside of Einstein.
“We have such an overlap in specialties,” Rabia says. “I see a lot of stroke patients who have carotid artery disease so I often end up consulting vascular surgery. It’s nice to be able to talk about some of the complicated patients with each other.”
They have never disagreed on the best way to treat a patient, not even when it was their mother, who had a stroke in 2017 and was treated at Einstein Montgomery. Their mother is doing well “thanks to the wonderful care she received,” Rabia says.
Very Close to Each Other
Rashad was in medical school at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, when he convinced his sister to attend a college program at Lehigh University that guaranteed her acceptance to Drexel University College of Medicine after only three years of college. When she was in her final year at Drexel, he was a resident at Temple University Hospital. For several years, they lived in the same apartment complex “and we’ve lived very close to each other ever since.”
Rashad met his wife, Dr. Lee, when they were both residents at Temple. Dr. Lee came to Einstein and recommended Rabia for a job when Rabia completed her fellowship. Then Rashad joined the staff as well. Rabia points out that her cousin was formerly a pediatrician in an Einstein practice and her uncle was a pharmacist here, too. When most people refer to Einstein as family, they mean it figuratively. With the Choudrys, it’s literal.
The siblings influence each other in ways outside of medicine, as well. Rashad’s interest in buying and fixing up old cars, particularly BMW’s, for instance, inspired Rabia to lease a BMW while she was in residency. “Oftentimes it was a struggle to pay for rent and my car at the same time,” she says with a good-natured laugh.
The brother and sister are on the same mission – to save lives in honor of one they lost – and are improbably doing so side-by-side.
“We are alike in that we are very driven,” Rabia says of Rashad and herself, “and we pride ourselves on taking care of patients as if they’re our own family.”