In a rare and possibly singular occurrence in the history of St. Luke’s graduate medical education program, a father and son will be training at the same time to become psychiatrists. Father’s Day will be especially meaningful for them this year.
At age 52, Alibek (Al) Suyumov, MD, is about to begin as a first-year resident in the Rural Psychiatry Residency at St. Luke’s University Health Network, following in the footsteps of his son Diyor Suyumov, MD, a third-year resident in Psychiatry. The Suyumovs came to the United States in 2003 from Uzbekistan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, which gained its independence in 1991.
Diyor, the younger Suyumov, age 31, who finished medical school at Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine in 2020, is one year away from completing his residency training, while his father is just beginning the journey.
Al finished medical school and a residency in dermatology in the 1990s in Uzbekistan, while it still was part of USSR. Though he found psychiatry more appealing, he chose to pursue a dermatology residency there, “because it was a trend among young doctors, and there was less freedom to choose” he says. “So, I didn’t pursue my interest for many years.”
But eventually he did – after his son went to Temple/St. Luke’s medical school, the area’s first and only four-year medical school, then chose to specialize in psychiatry and, ultimately, matched at St. Luke’s, where he hopes to spend his career helping a growing population of patients.
“You can make a big impact in people’s lives as mental health issues affect quality of life, decisions, motivation and relationships,” Diyor said. “Once you help a person’s mind it can improve their life.”
Was this the son pursuing his father’s dream, or is theirs a familial link in their shared passion?
For decades, Al practiced medicine in Uzbekistan and traveled back and forth from the United States. He took and passed the required USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) exam and got his ECFMG (Education Council for Foreign Medical Graduate) certificate to practice medicine in the US. But he never worked as a doctor here.
He pursued other interests here and was able to spend time as a learner at several of St Luke’s hospitals and physician practices. “I was amazed at how warm and welcoming everyone is. I heard so many good things about St. Luke’s,” explains Al.
He chose the Rural Psychiatry residency to help meet the need of underserved population in Carbon County, something he witnessed often in Uzbekistan.
“Lehighton is great, and all the people whom I met there helped make this program number one for me. I feel like I’m part of the St. Luke’s family there,” Al says, grateful especially to Rural Psychiatry Program Director Andrei Vedeniapin, MD, Najma Khanani, MD, and Christine Marchionni, MD. “You can see there is passion in everything they do, from helping take care of the patients with mental health issues to shaping the new and growing residency program.”
He matched in the program this year and will begin the training in July. He and Diyor will likely be together for education lectures at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus, something both look forward to. For now, Al will live with his son in Easton. His wife, a nurse, and two children live with her in Brooklyn, and they’ll start the process of transitioning to Pennsylvania over time.
He hopes the family will celebrate Father’s Day together, in Easton, enjoying a barbeque or another festivity. Either way, it will be a joyful occasion on several levels.
Al Suyumov’s decades-long dream of finally pursuing a goal that has eluded him over time and distance is also his son’s dream. His father’s joining him in a profession and at the health network where they’ll be able to make a difference in the lives of people.
“The mind is the ‘final frontier’,” Diyor said. “There’s so much more we can learn and do to bring this help to people in need.”
To which his father adds, “I’m so happy Diyor and I will be doing this together.”