Kennedy: A family of physicians trace careers to their hard-working, compassionate father

Kennedy: A family of physicians trace careers to their hard-working, compassionate father

July 18th, 2019 by Mark Kennedy in Opinion Columns

Dr. Arsian Kahloon

Dr. Arsian Kahloon

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Arslan Kahloon, a gastroenterologist at Erlanger hospital, is from a big family of doctors. All of Kahloon's siblings — three sisters and a brother — are doctors who are married to doctors.

Do the math.

Family gatherings must be like American Medical Association conventions with 10 docs discussing the latest medical research and how all their jobs — in different specialties — interrelate.

A favorite topic, we're told: Blood thinners, friend or foe?

Thirty years ago, Arslan Kahloon was a child growing up in Pakistan in a city about the size of Chattanooga. Precocious in mathematics and the physical sciences, he showed the traits of a budding engineer.

As a child, Arslan would disassemble toys and put them back together, he said. By the time he was about to finish secondary school, he had scholarship offers to study engineering in the United Kingdom.

But even as Arslan prepared to become an engineer, his father — a first-generation physician from a small farming community in Pakistan — took him aside to make a pitch for medicine. Medicine is a rewarding field, Akbar Ali Kahloon, a beloved Pakistani physician and teacher, told his second-born child. People value what you do, he said.

Young Arslan knew his father's patients, many of them indigents, respected him and cherished his gifts.

"We saw how people respected him in the community and how they valued him," Arslan said of his now-deceased dad.

As a young man, Arslan came up with a "deal" to make with his father. He told him that if he were to be accepted into one of Pakistan's best medical schools, Agakhan University in Karachi, he would study medicine. Arslan thought this was a long shot, and that he would soon be free to pursue engineering.

But, alas, he was eventually accepted to Agakhan University and he kept his promise to his father to pursue a medical career. Later, he would complete a medical residency at the Pittsburgh Medical Center and a fellowship at Indiana University.

In 2012, he settled into his position at Erlanger. He chose Chattanooga, he said, because it reminds him of the city in Pakistan where he grew up — not too big, not too small.

Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Kahloon, now 37, said he found in gastroenterology a specialty that combined the study of medicine with his engineering impulses. For example, he specializes in a procedure called TIF — transoral incisionless fundoplication — which repairs a valve connecting the stomach to the esophagus. The arthroscopic procedure combines elements of design and construction, much like engineering.

"It is a field where you can apply a lot of medicine and do a lot of procedures with your hands," he said of gastroenterology, a specialty focused on digestive diseases.

Growing up among a community of physicians and their children, Kahloon says he and his siblings were all eventually drawn to medicine as a career.

His older sister, Sobia Akbar, teaches pharmacology in Pakistan. A younger brother, Rehan Kahloon, is an interventional cardiologist at Erlanger. Another sister, Sana Akbar, is an endocrinologist practicing in the Washington, D.C., area, and his youngest sister, Hina Akbar, is a hospitalist in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Arslan's wife, Farwa Hameed, is a hospitalist working in Dalton, Georgia, and all his other siblings are married to practicing physicians or physicians in training, as well, he said.

Family reunions are food-centered gatherings with lots of medical chatter, Arslan said. The mother of the siblings, Tasneem Akhtar, now lives in Chattanooga and often presides at these gatherings.

Arslan said all of his siblings have tried to live up to their father's example of humility and public service.

"He is remembered as a kind man who was always pleasant, always optimistic," he said.

" ... He told me you have to be kind to your patients and humble in what you do. If you are kind to your patients they [will] trust you and depend on you."

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Arslan's name.

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