RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A father and son are proving there are no limits to what you can accomplish and they’re doing it side by side at a Richmond hospital.
Walking down the hall at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Johnston Willis, is a father and son duo both working in radiation oncology. Often confused for one another by patients, David Randolph and his son David Randolph Jr., work on local focused treatments of cancer patients.
“We bounce things off of each other all day long,” Randolph said.
Randolph Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from medical school in 2011. There he found his love for oncology courses. His father went from letting his young son visit him at work, to ultimately recruiting him.
In the department there are roughly 70 patients undergoing treatment. According to the doctors, the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute is one of the top facilities in the nation for Gamma Knife production — an advanced pinpoint radiation treatment for patients with specific conditions.
“One of my best parts of my day is every day before I leave or whoever leaves first, we always say I love you,” Randolph Jr. said. “What other job do you get to end the day with I love you to your coworker? It’s such a little thing but it’s really special to me.”
The medical talents in the family go far beyond this hospital. Randolph Jr.’s mother is a dentist. His sister is an ophthalmologist and his wife is a pediatric oncology pharmacist.
Randolph is the medical director of radiation oncology at the institute and has been a physician for 38 years. He even took home a Lane Adams award which is a national honor for leadership in serving the needs of cancer patients and their families.
It’s a career he said his childhood led him to. Growing up Randolph suffered with asthma and posture problems.
“I was sick all of the time but in that situation, I didn’t get the appropriate medical care so I suffered. I mean I literally could not breathe,” Randolph said.
He was able to build a tenured career, but it wouldn’t come without hardships. When he first started he was one of very few Black radiation oncology doctors.
“When I went into radiation oncology there was probably four or five of us in the country,” Randolph said. “There wasn’t 10 in the country.”
Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows 59% of U.S. physicians are white, while only around 5% are Black or African American.
Randolph Jr. said a lack of African American medical providers is problematic.
“It both infuriates me and breaks my heart. I have a patient that is literally under treatment right now and she presented with abnormal chest pain,” Randolph Jr. said.
Randolph Jr. told 8News, other doctors dismissed it.
“She finally saw a Black provider and the Black provider said this is not right, ended up doing a chest x-ray and found a large lung cancer in her chest,” Randolph Jr. said. “That’s 2021. That’s right now.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s almost two times more likely for African Americans to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts. The Tuskegee study in the 1900’s testing syphilis on black men and researchers in the 50’s testing Henrietta Lack’s cancerous cells without her consent, are just some historic examples aiding to a vaccine hesitancy within the community.
With the pandemic is still impacting communities across the globe, especially communities of color, both father and son also know the importance of educating their patients.
“Me being an African-American, a Black man… if I go to a healthcare practitioner who is African American, I have an inherent trust in him,” Randolph said. “So I think if we had more African-American physicians telling people that this vaccine is okay than a lot more people would be getting it.”