A Tribute to Dad on Father's Day


My father trained as a surgeon in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Soon after I was born in Bolivia my mother came down with what doctors were worried was Bolivian Hemorrhagic Fever. She was close to death they said. He was given the name of a Dr. Arnow at Columbia Presbyterian University Medical Center and told to take his wife there to try to save her. In a heroic effort he left his whole family, including his new baby daughter (me), with few funds in his pocket, took my mom on their first airplane ride ever and landed in NYC. An ambulance pulled up when they landed and promptly took my mom to a local city hospital. My dad realizing the mistake, had my uncle (now “Distinguished Professor of Piano” at UCLA), take my dad to Columbia to meed Dr. Arnow. Apparently barging into his office, my dad proceeded to beg Dr. Arnow in Spanish for help for my mom. Unable to communicate properly my dad began to write down the formula for the medicines my mom had received in Bolivia (in the universal language of chemistry) to help Dr. Arnow understand the issue. Dr. Arnow in his great mercy and generosity, told my dad, eventually through a translator, to get my mom to the Emergency Room by 5pm the next day. Leaving AMA from the City Hospital, my dad took my mom to Columbia, through a harrowing trip because of the NYC Marathon, to arrive barely on time. My mom survived with the help of Dr. Harold C. Neu, head of Infectious Disease at Columbia, and my parents went on to have 3 more children.


Growing up, we all remember my dad working as a general surgeon in Eupora, Mississippi where we eventually moved. He was often paid with chickens or land or food: our favorite form of payment was cornbread and dumplings! Everyone in Eupora treated my dad as a king as he was one of the only doctors in the area. When our house almost burned down in the first snow fall in 50 years, the whole town came out to help us and give us a place to live, clothes, and food. We all loved Eupora. This is were my dad let me go on rounds with him when I was in 3rd grade and even observe some GI surgeries. He allowed me to help with putting on casts and taking them off. I was always so shocked by how thankful patients were for anything my dad could do to help them. Many thankful patients would bring over gifts for the whole family and the stores in town would always let us put treats on “Dr. Lora’s tab.”


Eventually he went on to do a Fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgeon with Dr. Denton Cooley and Michael E. DeBakey at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, Texas. I met Dr. Cooley a few times on his big estate during his annual picnic for his fellows, and my dad loved working with Dr. Cooley.


My completely dad loved his work and continues to love it to this day! The joy of making someone’s life better and especially saving a life is priceless he would say. My dad still refuses to admit he is ever tired, and for years, when we would see him fall asleep in mass after a long night at work, we would ask him, “Were you sleeping and were you TIRED?” He would just say, “No, I was praying. I’m never tired!”


And of course, when asked when he will retire, as he still works long hours in Miami, Florida, he continues to say, “I’ll retire when 60 seconds after I die!”


His dedication to his work and love for medicine and surgery prompted my sister and me to become eye surgeons. My sister is at Stanford and I was at Harvard Medical School for 9 years. Yes, we wanted to become cardiothoracic surgeons like him, but he insisted we had to have some semblance of a life and that ophthalmology would be a better choice. We are so thankful to him in every way for the example he gave us of being a incredible surgeon and doctor.


We love you, dad! 

Sandra Lora Cremers, MD, FACS

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