Growing Up in Argentina

Title

Growing Up in Argentina

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Identifier

BrueraE_01_20180806_Clip01

Publication Date

8-6-2018

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Transcript

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah, I know how busy all of you folks are and it can be a real challenge. Well as I mentioned before we started, I want to just start in kind of the traditional place and ask you where you were born and when, and tell me a little bit about your family.

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Wonderful. I was born in a city named Rosario that is the third largest city in Argentina, in 1955. My dad was a cardiologist, who basically loved what he did. He loved patients, he did home visits with the patients on his own, and he also loved academics, he loved teaching and he did some research. So if you PubMed my name, you will see that the first two papers are not mine, they are Bruera, E., but they’re my dad, and they were done in the ’50s or something like that. And of course I could not publish that paper, being one year old.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

As much as you would have wanted to. [both laugh]

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Yes, I already had that.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Now you said he loved home visits and he went on his own. Was that unusual at the time, to do home visits?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

It was rather unusual, that a busy cardiologist would do quite a lot of visiting of his patients. It was perhaps more usual than now, but it was not that usual. I was surprised and I did not understand exactly why he would do that, but he sometimes would take me and my mom and my sister and leave us in the car, and then he would go into his visit and then take us somewhere else. Sometimes, I would accompany him in some of them, so I knew that patients loved the fact that their doctor would show up at their home and visit them.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

What did you observe about how he was with his patients and how did that affect you?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

I think he was a great listener. My dad was a great listener, at a time when nobody really was emphasizing listening so much, he was a great listener of the stories of the patients. And then later, in an anonymized way, he would tell some of those stories at dinnertime, so that we would understand some of the patients’ experiences and what they liked to do and so on. So I found that the human side of his practice, it was very easy for me to perceive. He also had a great love for being rigorous and scientific. But of course in Argentina, getting to be an academic or a researcher was very, very hard, and so he basically did most of his practice as a clinician. That’s what he did, he did clinical care. I learned a lot at the dinner table. So I learned stories, a lot of what he had learned, and the importance of being very ethical with patients and families, and the importance of trying to pitch in to knowledge.

My mom, on the other side—my dad’s side of the family was Italian and my mom’s side of the family was Irish. My mom was very caring and wonderful. She was also very practical and she basically wanted me to become a banker, so she wanted me to go into finance and she thought that being particularly adult like my dad, who would never bill the patients and so it was not such a wonderful investment. So whenever I was riding my tricycle and telling—and people were asking, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to the hospital.” My mom would continuously say, “Okay, but after the hospital, you go to work at the bank,” and she would redirect me continuously, to the bank.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

[laughs] That’s really funny.

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Where she thought I should be really working.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Now, am I correct in assuming that your father’s first name is also Eduardo?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Yes. Yes, yes.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Okay. And your mom’s name?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

My mom’s was Beatrice, and they met actually, in Rosario, in a St. Patrick’s Day party, where he and his friends attended the St. Patrick’s Day party at the St. Patrick’s Association in Rosario, and there they met. I don’t know all the aspects of their courtship, but they had a very, very happy marriage and they did very well.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Do you have brothers and sisters?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

I have a sister who is two years younger than me, and she’s in Argentina right now.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

And her name?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Her name is Maria Beatrice, but everybody calls her Marichu, that is a Basque nickname for Maria. I don’t exactly know why but that stuck with her.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Marichu?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Marichu, M-a-r-i-c-h-u.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Huh. I’ve never heard that before either, yeah.

Eduardo Bruera, MD

That’s a nickname for Maria in the Basque country of Spain.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah, interesting. Tell me about the impact of your dad’s profession on you. Did you decide—you know, here you are, a doctor, banker. Were you riding your trike to the hospital because you had decided you wanted to be a doctor?

Eduardo Bruera, MD

I guess initially, I felt that my dad seemed to be really in love with his work. He basically died at seventy-nine and he was still going to his office, he still had some patients, and so he really loved what he did. I sensed that I could be comfortable in that, without knowing that much. And then I went to medical school, mostly I guess following what I had learned from here. I thought that I could be happy on this, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to work one hundred percent by his side. I also felt that cardiology was not necessarily what I felt was the most exciting, maybe it was a very new area when he started doing it. In my time and age, the big taboo was cancer, the big thing that people were almost afraid to even mention. My mom would talk with her friends and they would ask, “Your boy, he’s also a physician?” Yes, yes. What specialty is he training on, what specialty is he working on? She would say, “A bad disease.” She wouldn’t even like to name the word cancer at that time.

T.A. Rosolowski, PhD

Wow.

Eduardo Bruera, MD

I was telling my mom, “Mom they’re going to think I’m into STDs or things like that, because…” So, you’ve got to learn how to call the name. At that time, especially when I was growing up in Argentina, cancer was such a taboo surrounding it. It was a disease that was perceived as being associated with so much suffering, that it was a terrible diagnosis to have, so I felt that to me it was a challenge and something that I would like to contribute to perhaps make it less of a taboo and make it more of a disease that people would be comfortable naming and of course living with.

Growing Up in Argentina

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