Ralph A. Highshaw, M.D., is a physician, surgeon, and scientist. Having harbored a desire to pursue a career in medicine since the age of five, Ralph began the long road to becoming a doctor by enrolling at USC medical school in Southern California.
Upon finishing medical school, he completed his Urology residency in California and then was accepted to MD Anderson Cancer Center for an Oncology fellowship. He spent two years in his fellowship and then went into private practice. He also became an NFUD (National Foundation of Urologic Disease) Scholar recipient while at MD Anderson Cancer Center for cancer research. Dr. Highshaw has published on prostate and bladder cancer, as well as other urologic subjects. As he settled into life as a practicing physician, Ralph A. Highshaw, M.D. treated patients in California for nine years before eventually moving his practice across the country to Tampa, Florida.
Although his background lies in urology and oncology, Dr. Highshaw has cultivated an integrative approach to medicine over the course of his career, developing an expertise in the practice of general wellness and advocating it for all of his patients. Now with 18 years in private practice to his credit, Ralph. A. Highshaw, M.D. has brought together traditional medical treatments like prescribing drugs and providing surgeries with practicing preventive and integrative medicine, and in so doing, has achieved reliable and measurably positive results.
How have you achieved success?
In medical school, I learned many established methods for treating patients—drug therapy, physical therapy, surgeries, and the like. And these are all extremely effective approaches to treat medical problems once they occur. However, as my career progressed, my thinking evolved to include preventative methods, as well. Coupling these concepts proved to be something of a revelation for me, and I have since used this dual approach in my practice to great effect in promoting overall wellness. There is no doubt in my mind that using integrative medicine is responsible for a noticeable increase in the general health of my patients.
How has your definition of success changed over the years?
As my life has progressed, the goalposts I put in place for myself keep moving forward. For example, when I was a teenager, I viewed success as achieving the highest marks I could in order to be admitted to be accepted by my preferred college. Immediately after that, I viewed gaining admittance into medical school to be a resounding success. In med school, I considered myself successful if my professors, mentors, and peers thought that I was performing above and beyond in my studies, and so on and so forth, until I finally found myself a full-fledged doctor with a private practice of my own. Right around that time, my definition of success abruptly switched from making sure that I became a physician—as I had already done that—to making as many of my patients well as I could using whatever means I had at my disposal. That remains my definition of success to this day.
What obstacles have you overcome in the process?
Every so often, I encounter those who doubt the validity of my approach. It’s inevitable, I suppose. Some people just aren’t used to their doctor espousing preventative medicine as well as dispensing prescriptions and referrals to specialists. That being said, overall wellness isn’t a radical concept, and if a skeptical patient gives me a chance to explain it in detail, I’m usually able to win them over.
What drives you to succeed?
Put very simply, I wish to heal the sick. I want all of my patients to be in optimal health. I wake up every day with that thought at the forefront of my mind. It is my core motivation.
What has success meant to you?
The health and wellness of my patients means the world to me, and achieving that means several things. If they happen to be in good health already and that is maintained for a long period of time, it means my advocacy of preventative medicine has worked well. If they happen to be sick or injured and they come to me for healing, and I manage to succeed with that, it means I can breathe a sigh of relief about their welfare—and so can they! It also makes me feel good from a professional standpoint knowing that my treatments have been effective.
Speaking as an individual rather than exclusively as a doctor, I look at success as a balance between executing my duties as a physician well and attaining fulfillment in my personal life. I have a family, friends, and a set of goals that have nothing to do with my career, and spending time on all those areas of my life is important to me. I also try my best to practice what I preach with regard to preventative medicine and overall wellness, so I make sure to exercise and get the right amount of sleep every night. Through it all, I also do my best to employ mindfulness techniques, as I find them to be very beneficial, which is why I recommend them so heartily.
Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?
Absolutely, I do—and this advice applies to all people in all professions across the entire world. There are five basic elements in life that each and every human being must pay attention to in order to be the healthiest version of themselves, and they are: nutrition, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, and social connectedness. As long as people maintain healthy habits regarding these five core factors, they set themselves up to be in the best physical and mental condition possible. Beyond that, I would also say that, generally speaking, most people would benefit from slowing things down and enjoying life more. There is no downside to de-stressing, spending more time with friends and loved ones, or taking some extra time out of a day to notice how beautiful nature is.
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