October 17, 2019
Get to know Dr. Aaron Bleznak, a breast surgeon and Medical Director of the Breast Program at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Chateauroux, France, and grew up in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. If you ever watched "The Goldbergs" on TV, that is my neighborhood.
Why did you decide to become a physician?
My father strongly encouraged me to become a physician. I always liked science, but I also was very interested in literature. I attended Franklin & Marshall College where I majored in English (there were no minors in those days) and kept my options open by taking more than the required premedical courses. There, my advisor, Dr. Jeff Steinbrink, informed me that many physicians were also writers, such as Arthur Conan Doyle creator of Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., William Carlos Williams, and Michael Crichton. When the time came to choose, I went to medical school at Jefferson. I have never regretted it. I always knew I intended to go into surgery. I’m not sure why, other than all the TV shows about surgeons at the time, especially “MASH.”
What career might you have chosen, if not medicine?
I suspect I would have gone into education, although I had some interest in law.
What do you like most about living in Lancaster?
I enjoy seeing how it has changed in some ways and not changed in others since I attended college here 40 years ago. Both my wife and I have family and friends in Danville, State College, Allentown, and Philadelphia from our other “stops” in Pennsylvania. I also enjoy that I can get pretty much anywhere I need to go in 10-15 minutes.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy theater and movies, travel and reading. . .currently biographies, but my favorite authors (Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Asimov, Conan Doyle) all wrote fiction. I golf but often wind up quoting Twain, who said, “Golf is a good walk ruined.” I used to play a great deal of tennis and would like to get back into it, although moving around has made it somewhat difficult to find good partners. My wife and I also enjoy spending time at our condo on the Chesapeake, although I try to stay out of the sun.
Do you have a favorite sports team?
I have been a Philadelphia sports fan (all four pro sports) since childhood and it is too late to change! While at F&M I wrote the football column for both the school paper and the Intelligencer Journal.
Do you prefer tea or coffee? Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?
Actually, I prefer coffee and lean to WaWa! Starbucks is too expensive for my taste.
What’s your favorite holiday and why?
Having spent my last seven years in Norfolk/Virginia Beach with its huge armed forces presence, I really enjoy both Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. As you can imagine, lots of pageantry down there.
What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
Tough to choose…but would have to say The West Wing. I have always liked the emphasis on clever dialogue. MASH and Star Trek are runners up.
What type of music do you listen to?
Rock, show tunes, classical, jazz…pretty wide ranging, with the exception of country. Must acknowledge that my interest in new artists pretty much ended with Springsteen and Billy Joel.
Do you have children?
We have four children who are spread throughout the country (Josh in Anchorage, Alaska; Rebecca in Los Angeles; Emma in New York City; and Hanna in Harrisonburg, Virginia), one daughter-in-law, Kristen, and three grandchildren (all in Alaska). My two eldest daughters are writers.
Do you have any pets?
With four children, a wife who loves animals, and a sister-in-law who was a grade school teacher and “passed on” to us many of her class pets during the years, we have had many. I recall dogs, rabbits, tree frogs, lizards, birds, hermit crabs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and chinchillas but I am certain I have blocked out a few. Currently, we have cats (one is mine and the other my wife’s). Three of our four children have dogs.
Who or what inspires you?
I have been very fortunate, in healthcare, to have had a number of mentors who have been inspirations at various stages in my career. Certainly, the surgical oncologist (Dr. Len Peters) under who I trained had an immense impact on me in terms of my approaches to cancer care and patients and, frankly, my personal conduct
What would patients be surprised to know about you?
My first publication was fiction and appeared in “The New Physician,” the journal of the American Medical Student Association, where it won the 1980 manuscript contest. It was entitled “The Final Case of John H. Watson, M.D.” It has been republished by some Sherlock Holmes societies.