People of the U: Dr. Frank Han
Published on Thursday, August 15, 2019
By: Ruth Cummins, email@example.com
He speaks four languages, Irish step dances and salsa dances, and is into astrophysics and astronomy.
He plays the accordion and Spanish guitar, the piano and pipe organ, the saxophone and the clarinet. And sings. And enjoys driving down the Natchez Trace on a lazy afternoon.
Those are among the side gigs of Dr. Frank Han, a University of Mississippi Medical Center fellow in training and caregiver for pediatric and adult congenital heart disease patients. The University of Florida School of Medicine graduate was born in China, grew up in the United Kingdom and spent time in Canada as he moved around with his parents.
“I’m a man of the United Nations,” Han says.
“Dr. Han is the most unique individual I’ve ever met,” said Dr. Mike McMullan, professor of cardiology. “That commercial on TV about the most interesting guy in the world? That’s Frank.”
In a two-year fellowship that began in summer 2018, Han is working closely with McMullan, who directs the Medical Center’s adult congenital heart program. Most of their patients have transitioned, or will transition, from childhood to adult care after being born with heart disease.
Han arrived at the Medical Center following a pediatric residency at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and an initial pediatric cardiology fellowship at the University of Florida. “I picked UMMC for the excellent learning opportunities in both cardiac Imaging and adult congenital heart disease,” he said.
Also attracting him were “the very friendly cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, the opportunity to make an impact with the Mississippi ACHD population, and the opportunity to help medical students and residents learn cardiology.”
His artistic avocations began when he was a child, Han said. “My parents encouraged me to start playing the piano,” he said. “At the University of Florida, they had an excellent pipe organ. I had lessons in pipe organ and piano, but the others are self-taught.
“It’s a funny story,” Han said of his accordion. “I was an anatomy teaching assistant as a fourth-year medical student. My students were very appreciative of me, and they decided to give me a gift card to a music store. I thought, ‘What is the coolest instrument I could learn?’
“It was an accordion. Today, you will hear me playing classic French folk songs that you would hear in old French movies.” That includes Edith Piaf’s “The Crowd,” performed here.
It’s hard to quantify how many people in this country play the accordion because the instrument comes in multiple types, some people have had lessons, and some play in some form or fashion by ear, said Norman Seaton, chief executive officer of the National Accordion Association.
Han’s on the lookout for fellow aficionados.
In his time at UMMC, “I have yet to hear anyone who says that they play the accordion, too,” Han said. “But some people come and play piano with me, or dance with me. It runs the gamut.”
He became an Irish step dancer – most people call to mind the musical Riverdance – while a pediatric resident. “I saw it on YouTube from the 90s. I said, ‘This is fantastic exercise!’”
Salsa dancing followed. “I discovered that there was a ballroom dance club in my pediatric residency, and they offered salsa in the choices,” Han said. “I picked it up because it was the one with the most people, and I’ve been dancing it ever since.”
Also at the University of Florida, he volunteered as an interpreter for French-speaking patients. He also speaks Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
His other passions include learning about different cultures. “I like to take pictures from time to time. I do astrophysics and astronomy, and I took amateur pictures of the solar eclipse.”
As part of his training, Han collaborates with UMMC’s pediatric team, taking care of children and helping them with their heart issues as they grow up. “It can be anything from clinic, to helping patients in the ICU, to doing an echo in the OR,” Han said.
Han is a boon to the adult congenital heart disease program “because he has such a unique way of looking at things,” McMullan said. “He’s done 3D printing of complex aortic malfunction. He goes to the dental school and prints them like you do a mold for a dental implant, and then he shows them to his patients. They just love him.”
In June, Han joined other cardiology fellows at a triathlon that memorializes a former pediatric heart patient, said Dr. William Campbell, associate professor of cardiology. “The one thing Frank had never done before is a triathlon, and we got a training program together. He did fantastic. All the fellows blew it away.”
“I did an escape room with Frank and my family. We just did it on the spur of the moment,” McMullan said. “With his help, we escaped prison with 20 minutes to spare. Usually, you have an hour and you’re pushing it to finish.”
Han has a secret for juggling the pure joy of his many interests with patient care and his ongoing training. “I do one hobby each day,” Han said.
“Tomorrow, I’ll play the song “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” on my classical guitar,” Han said. The popular piece was composed in 1896 in Granada by Spanish composer and guitarist Francisco Tarrega.
And today? “My favorite hobby in the whole wide world, Irish step dancing,” Han said.
“When I discovered the joy of doing this, it was like coming out of a prison and acknowledging the feeling of real sunlight for the first time in decades.”
Campbell said that when Han interviewed to be a fellow, the UMMC team didn’t know about his varied interests. “The CV can only hold so much. We knew what he looked like on paper,” Campbell said.
“We didn’t realize we were getting the most interesting man in the world.”