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Memories and messages about Dr. Moy

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A tribute to Grant Moy from his daughter Lisa:

At 103, my dad had a long life—a life inspired by medicine and in turn, inspiring to others, including his middle daughter, me. 

Born during World War I, impoverished, into an immigrant family, Dad knew hardship and discrimination, but these did not embitter him. Rather, these informed him and shaped the character of this man who, particularly by the metrics of his time, was an enlightened, open minded and forward looking doer and thinker who constantly endeavored to improve the world around him. 

As his children, we had countless examples from Dad about the value of hard work, grit, standing up and speaking out about what’s right, and the value of people, no matter the color of their skin, gender, profession, wealth, or sexual orientation. It’s obvious from his own memoirs that his determination to get to and through medical school had him working menial jobs and giving up leisure time in order to work and study. He appreciated the support he had from his mom to make that happen.


There are other aspects of his life and our lives that are not as often heard that speak to his expansive mind and character. Bucking Chinese tradition, Dad showed no favoritism to the boys. He even upbraided his own siblings if he saw an action or intent that would produce an advantage for their sons over their daughters. And despite growing up in a cloistered culture, wary of outsiders in a time of racism and bigotry, he so appreciated people of different races. He was walked to school every day by a much bigger African-American school friend who showed up so that Dad, a small kid, would not get beaten up on his way to school, which had been a regular occurrence. A lifetime later, during the summer of BLM, Dad felt so badly about an unarmed Black man being shot by police, he wanted to send money to that man’s family of four kids. 

In medical school, his closest friend was someone of a different faith, which he didn’t let get in the way of a deep and lifelong friendship. As a physician, he delivered medical care to people with the same level of attention and commitment no matter their ability to pay or their life situations. He had a famous story of how a prostitute needed care and he had to figure out how to deliver care without it looking like he was actually a client of her services. I remember nights when Dad would come home with a duck or a chicken for dinner, explaining that this was brought to him in payment for medical treatment. He eventually went on to help form a medical plan for the Chinese community in Chinatown, to ensure that those without access to the traditional means to care did not get left behind. And decades later, the Chinese community still benefits. 

At home, in the 1950s and ’60s, Dad frequently had a family friend and his partner over. They were part of the LGBT community. We never heard once, or saw once, in our household, any comment or action that would have suggested that Dad saw these friends any differently than any of the other members of our network. Through his example, I grew up understanding that people are to be valued for their character and basic humanity. 

Over his long career, Dad saved the lives of countless people, sometimes in his role as a primary care physician (only in Chinatown would that happen—a surgeon also being a family physician), often in his role of surgeon, but also in the role of mentor. He played the role of community health organizer, who got many people medical care that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attain it, but who also had countless one-on-one heart-to-hearts with young people he perceived to be headed down a dark path. In addition to these roles, he was also often an outspoken critic of what he thought was not right, sometimes calling out his own colleagues—whether it was about a business deal that he thought was going to be to the detriment of Chinese Hospital, or at department M&M (Morbidity and Mortality) rounds. I think there were those who sometimes thought he was a bit of a loose cannon—but he was always speaking up for those who had unheard voices. 

Through his example, he was an inspiration certainly for us kids in how to live our lives, and though it is unknown how many others he inspired, we do know that he was responsible for opening the door to at least another three generations of physicians. While he dated my mom, Betty Lee, in medical school, two of her younger brothers saw what he was doing and found the spark that led them to medical school as well. In turn, those brothers had kids and grandkids who are now practicing physicians, including quite a few on medical school faculties. The lives he’s touched in this way are incalculable. 

For me, Dad gave me only occasional advice, letting me mostly make my own way, but that advice was always perceptive, with perspective and insight, and very useful. I got one-line recommendations about school, training, and medical practice. And once I became a physician, it was one of my greatest joys to be able to share cases with Dad and operate with him. There, I could appreciate how my dad was one of the few remaining true general surgeons, having been trained in head and neck, chest, orthopedics, and abdominal surgery, with good skills in urology and vascular surgery. Although medicine is highly specialized now, I find it sad that Dad will probably have been one of the last true general surgeons around. He taught me that it pays to learn about things outside your own specialty; it helps in taking care of patients. 

One of the many remarkable things I loved about my dad was how he was so often thinking outside the box to approach problems and in general, expand his mind. With his exposure to a great variety of surgical cases, he was often thinking of ways to improve procedures. He devised a new, simpler way of inserting chest tubes so it could be done by paramedics in the field. He showed me little tricks in the operating room to get better outcomes. Even after retirement in his 80s, he continued this expansion. One day I came to take him to dinner, when he was 96, and I asked him what he’d been reading on his iPad. His comment was “This guy, this guy, Siddhartha, he thinks the way I’ve always thought.” I was amazed that at 96, Dad was discovering Buddhism.

One of the more practical values that Dad left with us is the importance of attention to detail. Perhaps in part, this comes from a hobby he loved—woodworking. His younger brother, Calvin, had the largest custom cabinetry shop in Chicago for many years—Cabinet and Shutters—and the two of them grew up working wood together. Over the years, Dad produced some beautiful pieces and I will cherish the work he left behind in my house. Making a joint in a wood piece requires precision, but this attention to detail can be carried over to many areas that I think are important—not the least of which is in medical care, and especially surgery. He often used to tell us that if 1+1 is not equaling 2, one must look closely at the situation and figure out what is amiss. 

I am so thankful to Dad for all these gifts he bestowed: attention to detail, the value of hard work and perseverance, seeing people for their humanity, and standing up for what’s right. I will endeavor to live up to these values, and to pass them forward. Despite missing Dad, I know I will carry him with me always. 


A note from Laurie Green to Lisa Moy:

Dear Lisa,


I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. I know how close you were and how proud he was of you, and that he mentored and encouraged you throughout your career. Way before we worked together, I encountered him and saw immediately his humility and kindness. He faced so many obstacles and discrimination but never showed a shred of anger or bitterness. He was a pioneer in so many ways, bucking so many odds, and selflessly sharing his wisdom, equanimity, and professionalism with others.  


Mentor, icon, caregiver, philosopher—deep condolences to you and your family. 



A note from Raymond Ong, Daly City, California:

Dr. Moy was my doctor when I transitioned from the military in the early 70's. I was also at Keesler AFB in 1967. Very blessed to have known him.

A note from Grant's nephew Paul Glenchur, Vienna, Virginia:

Your dad was my first big Giants booster. I remember him picking me up one night in that dark Torino and we went to Candlestick for a game vs. the Expos. I looked it up because I remember the game so well. It was Aug. 10, 1971 and I remember it because it was scoreless all night long and Juan Marichal out-pitched Bill Stoneman (the Expos ace) and the score was 1-0.

And when your folks visited us in Fresno one day, I audio taped a Giants game so your dad could listen to it when they arrived. I was telling your dad how great I thought 1B Skip James would be. He turned out to be just alright. OK, let's be straight. Skip James was a total bust, but your dad indulged me and listened to the game.

And at GG's birthday dinner last year, he went quite into detail about pitching strategies in the World Series.

And when the Giants made the playoffs in 1971, he called me to say I should come up and see the playoff game with him against the Pirates. I could not make it up there, but he was excited to go. I assume he went with someone else, but it was great he wanted to do it with me.

So he created a SF Giants junkie. And my video was to point out how that legacy is continuing with my son, Pauly, who, by the way, is now committed to pitch at the NCAA Division One level with Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. If he one day plays in the majors with the SF Giants, well, it will be full circle.

I hope you are doing okay and staying as positive as possible at such a difficult time.

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