If he’s lucky, obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Thomas Shieh gets to bed on a workday at around 11 p.m. Typically, he’ll fall asleep only to be awakened around 1 a.m. to field nervous patient concerns. Calls about water bags breaking sometimes follow, and he's back up and on his way to the Guam Memorial Hospital labor room for delivery. Before dawn, Dr. Shieh’s already doing rounds in the postpartum ward.
By 6:45 a.m., he's contemplating exercise, a 5K through the beaches of Tumon or the treadmill at the gym if it's raining. There, he fields more phone calls from patients before he's back at home at 8 a.m. to feed his dog and cat and for a refreshing shower. He heads to his Tamuning clinic by 8:45 a.m. This is when he says his day truly kicks off.
Dr. Shieh is possibly the busiest OB-GYN on the island, personally delivering an astonishing 400 to 450 babies each year. By the close of 2017, he's looking at a personal best of 9,000 babies delivered since he began working on Guam.
"The key with getting through a day with an average of 52 patients is my clinic staff," he says. "I have one nurse assigned to each room, sometimes two and three staff up front." By 11:45 a.m., he's already managed through 30 to 35 patients. But there is one point when it comes to a grinding halt. "Then I always have lunch with my wife of 31 years," he says.
Shieh continues his day completing his appointments and even manages to fit in lab work review and paperwork at the end of the day.
How does he do it? "I love to eat, but I can’t eat if I don’t exercise," he says. "So I walk and walk and walk. I usually end the day with about 16,000 steps. Every morning, I do a 5K walk before work, and if I can’t get that in, I will do it after work, and if I don’t get 15,500 steps, I do not go to bed. As a doctor, I tell all my patients to exercise, so I have to do what I preach, set a good example. I don’t drink alcohol, and I don’t smoke."
Beyond babies, Shieh is committed to addressing other public health issues, and devotes much of his personal time and money to philanthropy. His preseason high school volleyball tournament is entering its 18th year, while his Shieh Su Ying Scholar Athletes program turns 17. In more than two decades on Guam, he's given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and community health programs.
It's a stark contrast to the man who was a Naval Medical Officer in 1996, apprehensive about taking an assignment on Guam. "I actually did not want to come here; all I heard was lots of brown tree snakes," he recalls.
After two years on Guam, he would be given the opportunity to choose his next duty station. He chose the island. "Interestingly when I arrived here, I immediately was helping out GMH, I took calls there on the weekends, and in fact, the first baby I delivered on Guam was not at the US Naval Hospital, it was at GMH," he says.
Shieh opted to finish his final active duty years on Guam despite jobs lined up for him in Hawaii. His daughters wanted to complete high school on Guam so he thought they'd stay an extra couple of years. He then opened his private clinic to address gaps he saw in women's health.
"Well, look at me now," he says. "It’s 21 years since my Navy arrival, 21 years, nearly 9,000 babies, thousands of surgical procedures, tens of thousands of patients seen, and I am still here. "
With a strong staff, he plans to continue to provide patient-centered medical services for the island for many years to come.
Now, we know how Dr. Shieh does it. So why does he do it? "Life. I treasure life. You have to remember that our time on earth is not long, and we have to appreciate everything; never take things for granted,” he says. “My mom, before she died, she said, 'Live a happy and simple life and do good, because, in the end, we all will walk the same path.' I don’t consider my life as simple, but I really try my best to do good within our community, and if I can make a positive difference then I am happy. I am also very happy for having two beautiful daughters and still married to my wife who I have known since high school. I love my wife and my daughters. Many of my doctor friends are divorced, and so I am very happy that I have been with my only wife for so many wonderful years. Going on 21 years and I am always thankful for all my patients for being so loyal to me, I so appreciate they gave me their trust. And if you are my patient, I will do everything I can to help you."
“I don’t consider my life as simple, but I really try my best to do good within our community, and if I can make a positive difference then I am happy.”