Eighth-generation Physician Brings Whole-Person Care to Her Practice
Special to the FMA from AdventHealth
FMA member Puxiao Cen, MD, FACC, MHE, is an AdventHealth cardiologist and eighth-generation physician who blends science and art with Eastern culture into her medical practice, creating a unique whole-person experience. She uses her artistic ability to draw for her patients and help them understand what’s going on in their bodies. This combination of science and culture helps Dr. Cen’s patients to feel more comfortable opening up and talking about complex medical issues.
“I give them exercises to do, if they choose, from the time they get to the exam room to the time I walk in to check their vitals,” said Dr. Cen, who was born in China. “By being mindful of patients’ stress and giving them an outlet to refocus and calm their nerves, I get a truer sense of their blood pressure, and overall health, so I can better serve their needs.”
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month as well as National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and there is a trend among AAPI patients that is related to Dr. Cen’s medical specialty. According to research recently published by the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease rates are rising faster for Asian Americans than for white adults, but this differs among subgroups. Overall, cardiovascular disease rates were highest among Filipino Americans and high blood pressure, or hypertension, increased more quickly for nearly all subgroups – except Japanese Americans – than it did among white adults.
“Science and studying disease are important, however the humanities are the gateway to the human experience and crucial in the process of healing.”
Dr. Cen is a strong believer that her culture, as well as her art and scientific knowledge, give her the tools to heal through education, lifestyle medicine and whole-person care.
Dr. Cen’s father, an orthopedic surgeon and a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as an artist, became the driving force in shaping her life. Growing up, she watched him operate, listened to him speak with patients and went to the hospital after school rather than going home alone. She also read books he suggested, which he read along with her, forming their own father-daughter book club.
“I was shy with self-described limited communication skills,” said Dr. Cen. “Discussing those books with my dad gave me confidence and taught me about people. Without those skills, I would not have been able to practice medicine.”
When she was 13, Dr. Cen’s father enrolled her in adult art classes, where she developed exceptional artistic talent that became a confidence-builder. Many of Dr. Cen’s paintings decorate the corridors and waiting areas of her practices, offering a calm, warm feeling to an otherwise sterile environment.
“Science and studying disease are important, however the humanities are the gateway to the human experience and crucial in the process of healing,” she said. “I could use a photograph, but it personalizes it for my patients when I start with a blank page and draw out their heart, showing them where the blockages are and how they can be bypassed. This artistic form of customized care simplifies the process for my patients by giving them a roadmap of their journey through surgery and has a calming influence.”
Over time, she’s noticed her art, whether it’s the surgery sketches she draws or the paintings she creates for her hallways, also breaks down barriers with patients.
“It creates an environment that is warmer and less sterile,” said Dr. Cen. “When patients relax, their blood pressure and heart rate are lower, and they can almost forget it’s a doctor’s visit. At this moment, my science education, the time I take to explain how the body works, my ability to focus and the art I create all blend to give patients a better healthcare visit.”
During her decades as a cardiologist and more than 20-year history with AdventHealth, Dr. Cen has experienced many changes in healthcare, including better technology, more women in cardiology and the widespread use of lifestyle medicine.
“I saw how my father and grandparents practiced medicine and I saw how they used lifestyle treatment to treat disease and gained a deep understanding through my culture before it became commonplace,” she said. “I talk to my patients about the importance of eating plant-based, whole foods to maintain a healthy gut. In addition, staying active through exercise is important for the body and mind and activities like spending time with pets and meditating can be rejuvenating for the soul.”
Her family’s legacy in medicine continues here in the U.S. with her son, Steven, who is nearing the end of his residency at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque.
Both mother and son hope to continue the teachings of their family by using a lifestyle medicine approach to help their patients thrive.
“It’s all about taking care of our bodies to make sure that they take care of us,” Dr. Cen said.