Trauma Medical Director, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.
Interviewed by Matthew Totsky
Photography by Brett Mountain
Meet Birmingham resident Dr. Marianne Franco. Born in Detroit, she grew up in Standish and serves as a general surgeon and trauma medical director at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.
“My parents moved here from the Philippines so my father could complete his medical training,” she says. “He is a cardiologist, and I’ve always taken after him. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. During my surgery rotation in medical school, something clicked for me. At that point, I knew I wouldn’t be happy in my medical career unless I was in the operating room.”
After graduating medical school from Michigan State University in 2003, Franco completed her general surgery residency at William Beaumont Hospital and then moved on to a fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in minimally invasive and bariatric surgery. She credits much of her success to the support she received from her parents.
“They are very proud of me and my father loves the fact that there are two Dr. Francos in the family,” she says. “He never pressured me to go into cardiology. He knew from his own experiences that you have to love what you do in order to be successful. I fell in love with surgery and could never see myself doing anything else.”
What keeps you motivated at this stage of your career? Surgery is definitely hard work and challenging. I put in a lot of hours, but the personal sacrifices I’ve made to get here are worth it in the end. There’s nothing better for a doctor than patients who are pleased and thankful for their outcome.
Every now and then, I stop and realize that being a patient’s surgeon is truly a unique privilege. My patients are under anesthesia and are, therefore, vulnerable and defenseless. They have put complete faith in me to keep them safe and to perform the best surgery possible. I can’t think of a better example of trust. This is what keeps me motivated.
What do you enjoy most about practicing medicine here in Oakland County? The population is so diverse here, and every day is a cultural education. For example, end-of-life care differs among cultures. It’s up to me to get to know my patients, their families and their preferences in order to make sure I’m doing my job and taking care of them in the best possible way. These experiences have enhanced my skills as a doctor. Overall, I want my patients and their families to feel at ease because surgery can be a very stressful event.
What are some of the unique challenges you face personally? Patients can be surprised when they meet me for the first time. There’s still a stigma or perception of who a surgeon should be, and most people picture an elderly male instead of a younger female. But more women are becoming surgeons and taking on the challenges that come with the territory and, in my opinion, that’s a good thing.
How do you like living in Birmingham? I love it. This has been home to me for a long time because my sister and I went to Cranbrook Kingswood as boarding students for high school. Coming from a small town like Standish, it was a big adjustment at the time. But the life skills I learned at Cranbrook are ones that I still carry with me today. My education was amazing, too. I obviously focused on the sciences later in life so I am grateful to have had a strong exposure to the arts because it made me a more well-rounded person.
I really like the downtown area of Birmingham. I love walking from store to store and checking out my favorite restaurants like the Townhouse, Social, Elie’s and Market. I always run into people I know, so for me, it has a bit of a small-town feel.
What has been the most rewarding experience of your career? Every day can be rewarding in its own way, but one of the most unique experiences took place in 2014. My family and I participated in a medical and surgical mission in my parents’ hometown of Angeles City, Philippines. It was eye-opening. I am now so grateful for the resources we have here in the United States, as a doctor and a patient.
All of the patients we took care of on this mission could not afford any health care on their own, much less a surgical procedure. I knew I was making a real difference and significantly improving the quality of life of every patient I operated on. It was an honor for me to work with these patients and participate in this mission, and it’s something I plan to do more of in the future. NS