Three families, six doctors and three different paths that led them to practice at Providence St. Joseph Hospital
Providence St. Joseph Hospital is a unique draw for those who work within its walls and system: Shared values and attention to compassionate, quality patient care. Its location. The Catholic ministry. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. Mix in the added value of having your spouse or parent working at Providence St. Joseph and you might have the heavenly career of a lifetime. Several families fit that description, and these three told us their stories.
ROBERT DEL JUNCO AND MICHAEL DEL JUNCO: FAMILY PRIDE
You might think that Michael del Junco, MD— a primary care physician at Providence St. Joseph—following his father, head and neck surgeon Robert del Junco, MD, into medicine was a given. But not really, even though their paths were very similar.
Robert, who has been on the hospital’s medical staff for 35 years, recalls, “I graduated from high school and was given advanced placement as a junior at USC . After six months at USC, I applied and was accepted to medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico. After graduation I was accepted to a head and neck residency training program. I was very young. While I was living in Mexico I developed a huge appreciation for the United States and a realization that I really wanted to care for people.”
He and his wife, Debbie, didn’t expect any of their four sons to become doctors. In fact, it wasn’t until Michael graduated from UC Berkeley and worked in research for two years that he told his dad, “Hey, I think I want to be a doctor.” Michael attended medical school in Grenada, in the West Indies, then found his way to Providence St. Joseph about a year ago.
“Because of my father, I have such a connection to this hospital,” says Michael, “with its commitment to quality care, and as a religious-based institution. We came to church at the St. Joe’s chapel every Sunday, and I did Saturday rounds with my dad. The number one reason I’m here? My dad.”
“You have no idea how much pride I have,” says Robert, “seeing my son do this work, seeing people I have known for 20 or 30 years who are now Michael’s patients. He really helps them.” Since they have the same last name and Michael and his wife, Patrice—and their baby, Charlotte, who was born in September—live with his parents, they often get mixed up. Robert says he’s fine with that. “My father (who was also a doctor at Providence St. Joseph) once told me to get over myself, that I was not the important person. What was important was the hospital. “And to see Michael share those values is a comfort,” he adds. “I wish there were more like him ... We need them.”
ANITA GREGORY AND RICHARD KIM: BACK HOME
Providence St. Joseph neurosurgeon Richard Kim, MD, and colorectal surgeon Anita Gregory, MD, director of the colorectal cancer program at the hospital’s Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment, met during their OB-GYN rotation at Saint Louis University Medical School in St. Louis, Missouri.
“It was a small group where we got to know each other very well,” Dr. Kim remembers. “And there were babies being born everywhere!”
“[Richard] was very smart and quiet. We made good partners,” says Dr. Gregory. Dr. Kim felt the same way: “Anita has this strong, nurturing personality, and I was head over heels the more I got to know her.” Their careers soon took them to opposite coasts—he decamped to NYU for his neurosurgery residency, and she went to UC San Diego for a general surgery residency.
They had a long-distance relationship for a while, “then we decided we wanted to make our relationship really work,” says Dr. Gregory. “So I moved to New York and finished up at Columbia. Ultimately, we got married. I went on to do a fellowship in New York and he went to Yale.”
But, she adds, “we both wanted to get back to Southern California, where we grew up. Richard was at another Orange County hospital, in an academic position, so I reached out to the director of colorectal surgery at St. Joseph’s and reconnected with a colleague from UCSD. I started here in 1998. Our children were born here.”
The couple share an office but still rarely see each other. “It is great to run into each other in the halls,” says Dr. Kim. “I have always appreciated the family environment at St. Joseph’s,” he says, “that mantra of caring for our neighbors and our community, the passion for really taking care of people. “And I discovered very early on to make sure to tell people, ‘I’m Dr. Gregory’s husband.’ Because everyone loves Dr. Gregory. I was instantly their friend.” The couple have three children in high school and college, “none who profess wanting to become a doctor, which is fine. They saw how unpredictable and consuming it can be,” he says. They manage, Dr. Gregory adds, “as a team, with lots of give-and-take.”
BRIAN BOYD AND LILLY RAMIREZ-BOYD: THE TWINS
Obstetrician-gynecologist Lilly Ramirez-Boyd, MD, and neurosurgeon Brian Boyd, MD, director of the hospital’s pain and palliative care program, also met in medical school, at the University of Minnesota.
“I like to say that Lilly and I are Geminis—the twins— and we met and fell in love in the Twin Cities,” says Brian. The couple married in 1984, then Lilly went to USC to finish her OB-GYN training. “We were apart for about 13 months before we got our career paths in sync,” she says. Brian then finished his residency program at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles. “The opportunity to cohabitate with my wife was a strong inducement for me to come out to Southern California,” he says. He joined Providence St. Joseph in 1987.
As the couple started a family, the idea of working together became more and more attractive. “The OBGYN who delivered our babies said to me, ‘Why don’t you come over here?’” says Lilly, “So I did.” In 2010, the couple started sharing an office.
“We share the philosophy that the patient comes first,” she adds, “and St. Joseph really nurtures that. Brian has the role of end-of-life care. I have taken the role of helping women bring their babies into the world, then mothering those children as they grow up, and the women as they enter menopause.”
“There’s a story I love to tell,” says Brian. “Our daughter was around 10 years old and she said, ‘Daddy and Mom, you guys work at opposite ends of the body!’ It was very insightful for her to realize that one end is the neurology, and the other gynecology.”