Four doctors share how their early years shaped their future

Passion Behind the Practice
These doctors found their passion for patient care through the events and relationships that helped shaped their lives.

The career paths for many of the doctors, nurses, clinicians and staff at City of Hope® began not in college or medical school, but during childhood. Of course, not all had chosen their profession as children, but their upbringing often fueled their motivation to succeed.

Some had mentors and role models who instilled the value of commitment and hard work. Others rose above tumultuous times to achieve goals others thought were unattainable.

Alex Herrera, MD, for instance, aspired to be a baseball player during his upbringing in Miami. But when he realized professional baseball was not in his future, his uncle showed him a path to even more meaningful possibilities.

Stephen P. Ray, MD, credits his parents for his strong work ethic and a philosophy committed to doing the job right. “One of the things that I learned from my dad was a willingness to take on tough challenges and just stick with it,” he says.

And while David J. Winchester, MD, was certain he wouldn’t be a doctor while growing up as the son of a renowned surgeon, Christopher Chen, MD, was certain he would be—but not in the specialty he intended to pursue.

Watching his father, David P. Winchester, MD, work long hours and miss family events “tempered my enthusiasm for medicine,” the younger Dr. Winchester says.

Eventually, his father became his mentor and role model as he pursued his own career as a surgeon.

Dr. Chen was certain he’d be a geriatrician, caring for the elderly, while growing up in an extended family that revered his grandparents. And while he eventually shifted to oncology, he kept the promise he made to his grandparents to become a doctor.

In this article, we’ll share the stories of these four City of Hope doctors:

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Christopher Chen, MD

Family means something different to everyone. While many families are less than perfect, for many, the idea of family represents security, love and an innate connection that can’t be broken.

For Dr. Chen, family is all that and more. Family laid the foundation for his life’s accomplishments and, by extension, his career in medicine.

Dr. Christopher Chen celebrates medical school graduation with his family


As a young boy growing up in Hong Kong and later in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Chen lived with his parents, sister and maternal grandparents and was often surrounded by other family members. His grandparents imparted wisdom not just in daily advice or guidance, but also in how they managed their own health issues.

Read Dr. Chen's story.

Stephen P. Ray, MD

If life has taught Dr. Ray anything, it’s to be all in. No matter the task. No matter the goal.

“My dad had a philosophy: ‘If you can’t do it right, don’t even start,’” says Dr. Ray. “He taught me from an early age, whether it was mowing the grass or digging a hole for a mailbox, you did it just right.”

This wasn’t just talk in his early years. It was a philosophy that was at the foundation of his upbringing. He saw those words in action as his father built the family home—nearly single-handedly. He saw them in is mother, who took the time and care to prepare healthy meals and school lunches.

Dr. Ray credits his parents, who were tremendously hard-working, industrious, loving and ahead of their time in many ways, as well as his family’s physicians, with influencing his career choice to become a reconstructive breast cancer surgeon.

Read Dr. Ray's story.

Alex Herrera, MD

The baseball field was young Alex Herrera’s “happy place” growing up. But at some point in his young baseball life, he realized that playing pro ball was not in his future.

From surviving a tumultuous childhood, to being told (wrongly) he’d never be an Ivy Leaguer, to recovering from a horrific skiing accident that left him severely debilitated and almost ended his medical career, Dr. Herrera has taken the curveballs life has thrown at him and turned them into opportunities to foster his own resilience.

He has come to view life’s inevitable challenges as “just one string of lessons.”

Read Dr. Herrera's story.

David J. Winchester, MD

During his years in high school and college, Dr. Winchester thought long and hard about what he was meant to do with his life. And, for a time, it certainly wasn’t being a doctor.

His father was an outstanding and distinguished surgeon in the Chicago area. But his success came at a cost. Long hours. Late nights. Missed ballgames.

“We waited for dinner sometimes ‘til eight or nine at night,” the younger Dr. Winchester says. “My mom wanted to wait until we could have dinner as a family.”

From left: David P. Winchester, David J. Winchester and Diane Winchester.

But when the time came to find his own path in life, young David made what he called the “logical” choice. In the end, it was his father’s passion for his work, his dedication to his patients and his son’s own acknowledgement that he had the skills and the aptitude to be a surgeon himself.

“Being a doctor seemed like a good choice because it fit my abilities and my personality,” he says.

Read Dr. Winchester's story.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are interested in a second opinion about your diagnosis and treatment options, call us or chat online with a member of our team.