After a combined 15 years of post-medical school training and six-and-a-half years in a long-distance relationship and marriage, Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon and Breast Surgical Oncologist Abhishek (Sunny) Chatterjee, MD and Colorectal Surgeon Lilian Chen, MD are living happily ever after together at Tufts MC.
It’s been quite a long and winding road for you two through your medical training. Give us a little background?
Dr. Chatterjee: We began dating at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, when I was in the midst of an eight-year General Surgery/Plastic Surgery residency program and Lily was a medical student. When Lily graduated and started her residency at Lahey Clinic, I would drive down from Dartmouth to visit her on one or two weekends every month.
Dr. Chen: We were married in September 2013 in between fellowship interviews. I matched at Lahey for my colorectal surgery fellowship and Sunny headed to the University of Pennsylvania for a one year Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowship. It seemed like we were destined to be apart for at least another year!
After so many years apart, what were the circumstances that led to you both taking jobs at Tufts MC?
Dr. Chen: After we both graduated this past spring, our goal was to find jobs in the same geographical area so we could finally be together. I say it was mostly luck that we both ended up at Tufts MC. A colorectal surgery job had opened up that was the perfect fit for me, but I told Dr. Mackey that I couldn’t accept the job unless Sunny could find employment in the area as well. Dr. Mackey asked me what his specialty was and it turned out that Tufts MC just happened to need both a plastic surgeon and a breast surgical oncologist.
Dr. Chatterjee: It really was perfect timing. It all happened so quickly and we started work on July 27, 2015. We both love Boston. I’m from Worcester, so we are close to my family and I’m a big New England sports fan. The city has a unique pride and character, world class hospitals, top notch schools and education and exciting sports teams.
What are your initial impressions of Tufts MC from your first couple of months working here?
Dr. Chatterjee: Our colleagues and supervisors have been incredibly friendly, supportive and welcoming. It’s always nice to join a culture of professionalism and respect; that doesn’t exist in every organization. We are really happy to be part of this team. It’s a great group of people.
Dr. Chen: We are so excited to be here, get involved in the community, help Tufts MC grow and advance cancer treatment, teach residents and educate patients. It’s very gratifying to finally do the job that we worked and trained for so long and hard to do. And to be able to do what we love in the same hospital after being apart for so long is icing on the cake.
How has it been to go from rarely seeing each other for so many years to living and working together?
Dr. Chatterjee: It’s been amazing. We are finally living in the same house for the first time ever. At work, our offices are next door to each other on South 4. We carpool into work together, often meet for lunch in Chinatown, share clinical space and visit each other in the OR. We even joined the Chinatown YMCA and meet up to exercise after work.
Dr. Chen: It’s always nice to have another person you know around when you start work at a new job in a new place. It’s never easy to be new and we’ve been able to help each other learn names and how to get around. It’s great to have Sunny there to talk to, so it’s never lonely.
In addition to finally being together, what else have you enjoyed about working at Tufts MC?
Dr. Chen: I am fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, so I’m thrilled to work in the Chinatown community and help break down the language barrier with the Chinese population. My goal is to increase colorectal cancer awareness in Chinese speakers, provide translated information in the colorectal clinics and educate the community on colorectal problems and available screenings. I really want to try to help the Chinese population have better access to care.
Dr. Chatterjee: It is a privilege to teach residents and pass along skills to these future doctors. Tufts MC residents are competent, hard-working and eager to learn. The educational opportunity really validates our decision to come here.