Dr. Daniel Howard is a surgeon at Mercy Health who is passionate about helping breast cancer patients. Dr. Howard enjoys photography and gardening. He’s also a Christmas fanatic and has created a Christmas themed fundraiser at his home. iMeet this caring surgeon and Christmas decorating aficionado!

iMeetWelcome to iMeet, Dr. Howard! Tell us about yourself...

I grew up in Frankfort. I graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in biology and chemistry and received my medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. I have a brother, who is a radiologist and a sister, who is a teacher. 

I have been married to my wife, Janice, for 30 years. We have two children, James and Sarah, both 24. We also have one cat, Cecil and one dog, Izzy, who is a Bernese mountain dog – he’s pretty big.

Tell us about your position at Mercy Health...

I am a general surgeon, but my special interest lies in breast cancer patients. There have been such advancements made in the past 30 years, and I am hopeful for the next 30 years as well. In our area, the five-year survival rate from cancer after treatment is 97%! That’s above the national average. I’m proud of that.

Did you always want to be a doctor?  

My dad was a family practitioner, so medicine was always in the back of my mind. I loved math and science in school. It wasn’t until I worked as a hospital orderly in college that it really clicked with me. I thought, “Hey, this is going to be fun!” I felt that I could accomplish so much good as a physician.

If you hadn't gone into medicine, what would you be doing?

I would be happy being a biology teacher in college or high school. I could also see myself as an architect or a home builder. Engineering would have been right up my alley too. I like making things such as building a dam. I could have never been a lawyer or accountant though.

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 Tell us about a typical day...

There are two types of typical days for me. The first type is one where I visit patients in the hospital all morning, then I am in the office for the rest of the day. The second type is one where I perform surgeries. I typically perform about six surgeries on those days.

What's the best part of your job? What is the hardest?

The best part of my job is helping people understand that everything will be ok. I know, sometimes, the initial shock of a diagnosis seems like a death sentence, but part of my job is mapping out a plan of action. Through research, we have found that patients who will need chemo can have that chemo before surgery. Many times, the chemo wiped out the cancer and there is no need for surgery.

The hardest part is breaking bad news to patients. It’s just awful, but no matter how bad a diagnosis is, we can help. We will do our best to help beat this thing!

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You are hosting a Holiday Open House* at your house! Tell us about that...

Basically, I just love Christmas to be as full of decorations and trees as possible. I was always decorating my office at work and other places in the hospital, so my wife decided that I should use my talents as a fundraiser.

The Open House is in its 3rd year and will take place on November 17 and 18. This year it has expanded to Sunday afternoon and we are hoping for a big turn-out. I chose the Dr. Lisa Lasher Women’s Services Fund at Mercy Health Foundation Lourdes to be the beneficiary for the event this year - Dr. Lasher and I were very close. The fund helps provide educational materials for patients, gas cards to help patients if they have to travel for a procedure, things like that.

I decorate every inch of my home - It is over the top! I have 42 trees this year…eight of them are 9 ft, one 12 ft, and tons of 6-7 ft trees. I have been accumulating decorations and ornaments over the years.

iMeetWhat do you like to do in your free time?

I love to piddle in the yard with plants. My yard in my former residence was shaded, so I really focused on my Hostas. The yard in my current house gets lots of sun, so I have had to brush up on my sun-loving plants and flowers.

I also love to take photographs while vacationing. There are hundreds of such photos framed in my office.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner...what's your favorite dish? 

Oh, wow! That’s a tough one. We make so many dishes that we haven’t had all year long. I love turkey and dressing with gravy. And the casseroles…broccoli, green bean, sweet potato…I could go on and on. The pecan and pumpkin pies? So good…I eat leftovers for a month!

Any retirement plans? How would you like to spend life as a retiree? 

Of course, in 30-35 years! That would put me around 95 years old. Umberto Veronesi, the Italian surgeon who was the first surgeon to perform lumpectomies instead of full mastectomies, is my hero. He worked up until age 90.

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I enjoy what I do so much. When I get closer to retirement, I hope to gradually start working less and less, so that I can travel more. But I’d always be available to help guide the next generations of surgeons. I could be a senior expert of sorts. I would love to continually keep a guiding hand in the Mercy Health surgical program.

*This holiday open house at the home of general surgeon Dr. Daniel Howard is from 5 pm – 8 pm on Saturday and Sunday from 2 – 4 pm at 4040 Primrose Place in Paducah. Parking is available at Paducah Medical Pavilion, located at 225 Medical Center Drive. A shuttle service will be provided. Tickets are $20 and are available at the door. For more information, call 270.538.6589. For more information please see this week’s iSupport.