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My Son, the Non-Doctor

Michael Guanzon shames his family by becoming a lawyer

Published in 2007 Virginia Rising Stars magazine

Before he reached middle school, Michael Guanzon was well-versed in the contents of dermatology books and the anatomic model of the ear. “Growing up in my family, you didn’t say eardrum,” he explains. “It was always tympanic membrane. I thought that was great stuff.”

His family includes a physician granduncle, a pediatrician mother, a surgeon father, a physician brother and identical twin brothers who recently graduated from medical school. Guanzon often spent after-school hours in a place people dread: a doctor’s waiting room. “Most kids would hate it, but I enjoyed it,” says the associate at Clement & Wheatley.

As a result he went to college thinking he, too, would become a doctor. He took all the medical school prerequisites and even performed research in the U.Va. Health Sciences Center’s Medicine/GI department. But late in his undergraduate career, his plans began to change. “I started to realize: Was I pursuing this because I wanted to or because of what my family thought?”

To cover his bases, Guanzon took the MCAT and the LSAT, and applied to both medical school and law school. To his parents’ surprise—and somewhat to his own—he chose the latter.

“I thought I would be a medical malpractice defense litigator so my parents would find it in their heart to forgive me,” Guanzon says with a chuckle. His first job out of school, in fact, was with the firm that represented his parents, a move Guanzon assumed would please them. Not quite.

“They spoke to their lawyers and said, ‘If our son’s face ends up on the back of the Yellow Pages selling his services, or if he sues a doctor without our prior written consent, we will send [you] his tuition bill for his private school, undergrad and law school, payable in full,’” Guanzon says.

So Guanzon found what he believed would be a safe area of law. He now represents hospitals with issues such as employee hiring, risk management, patient consent for risky surgeries and ensuring that patients’ rights are protected during research.

His medical background is a great help.

“I have a natural rapport with doctors,” he says, adding that today’s large malpractice settlements and awards have made many doctors wary of lawyers. “If I have a client who doesn’t know anything about me, I tell them about my parents and three brothers and they feel more comfortable. They’re better able to trust me.”

His parents’ relationships with their patients taught him about his own duty toward his clients. “Even if it’s after hours, you always have an obligation,” Guanzon says. Though his parents would miss the occasional dinner or swim meet, he never felt slighted. “It is a higher sense of duty,” he says.

But despite their shared sense of responsibility, Guanzon says he still experiences a certain amount of flack at the family dinner table.

“Whenever there is an issue where medicine conflicts with law—whether it is the cost of medical malpractice insurance or the complexity of certain programs—I tend to get blamed,” he says.

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