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On Broadway . . .

Photographs by Patrick Saine
Text by Cathy Shufro

"I won't quit till I'm a star on Broadway, on Broadway," sang the Drifters in 1963. A decade later, that refrain rang true for a pair of aspiring doctors who were determined to return to New York City to practice among the people they'd grown up with. Today, both are graduates of DMS and they have offices at opposite ends of Broadway.

From lower Manhattan's TriBeCa—where pediatrician Elaine Choy Lee, M.D., sees patients in a converted apartment—if you head north on Broadway for almost 200 blocks, you'll eventually come to the 185th Street office where Juanita Jenyons, M.D., practices obstetrics and gynecology. Though both are graduates of Dartmouth Medical School (Lee is a '79 and Jenyons a '78), the two women appear at first glance to be otherwise quite different. In Lee's office, just a block from the lively streets of Chinatown, the conversation is generally in Cantonese, while Jenyons speaks Spanish to the patients at her office in a Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights.

But what seems to distinguish the two women also suggests what they have in common: both are working among people with whom they grew up, talking to patients in their native languages. Both are also the daughters of immigrant parents who themselves had little formal education; Lee and Jenyons reached this point against the odds— finding their way into medicine without the kind of encouragement and connections often offered to those who aspire to be doctors. And when they left the city to study in New Hampshire, both were determined to return home.

Jenyons has two offices—one on the Upper West Side and the other way uptown, in a neighborhood of Washington Heights (pictured above) where many residents are Dominican.

Lee's father arrived in the United States by jumping off a ship near Boston. Goon Duck Choy, who eventually owned three restaurants in New York, had been born in a village near Guangzhou, China, and was expelled from the U.S. twice. On one of these unplanned trips home, he married Lee's mother, a seamstress who never learned to read— in Chinese or English. Lee's father gained citizenship by fighting in World War II and settled in New York, and Lee grew up on the Lower East Side. She attended the Bronx High School of Science and won a New York State Regents' Scholarship to attend Skidmore College. There, she majored in biology and philosophy and decided to become a high-school science teacher because it would be a stable job. "Nobody told me I should be a doctor," Lee recalls.

But she found that she didn't like teaching, and eventually she realized that medicine would allow her to use her interest in science for the benefit of the Chinese-American community. "I always intended to come back to Chinatown," Lee says. She is now on the clinical faculty at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons and runs her practice in partnership with her husband, Chuck Wing Lee, a nurse practitioner. They have two sons.

Jenyons's route into medicine was also bumpy, though a bit more direct. Born in the Dominican Republic, she decided to be a doctor—an obstetrician—at age 7 or 8, when a relative in the countryside died during childbirth. She was 10 when her family moved to Spanish Harlem after her father lost his job in Santo Domingo. He found a job polishing silver in a New York hotel and eventually ran the silver room. Her mother did factory work. Neither completed high school, and they discouraged Jenyons from imagining she could be a doctor. "They thought it was too big a leap. People wanted to be realistic. My father said, 'Why don't you become a nurse?'" So did the teachers at her vocational high school, so Jenyons trained there as a licensed practical nurse.

Lee's office is only eight blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. She says there are lots of small businesses in the area, but that "since September 11th, they're not doing so well."

She then used her L.P.N. credentials to finance her premedical studies at Queens College. At Dartmouth, away from home for the first time, Jenyons found strong support from a cohesive group of minority students.

She runs her practice with a partner, working from two offices—one in midtown, across from the American Museum of Natural History on West 77th Street, and the other way uptown, in Washington Heights. She is also a senior attending physician at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center and an assistant clinical professor at Columbia. Jenyons and her husband, economist Rafael Escano, have three sons.

When photographer Patrick Saine shot the images for this photo-essay during a week in mid-July of 2002, he brought the two women together for the first time in more than 20 years. Lee and Jenyons remembered each other from medical school, but they had never crossed paths in New York City. Enjoying a reunion over Dominican food, they reminisced about their experiences at Dartmouth, about the ways in which they have lived amazingly parallel lives, and about their practices "on Broadway . . ."

Above: The consultation room at Jenyons's uptown office—at Broadway and 185th—looks out on a middle-school playground.

Jenyons uses the annual gynecological examination to educate her patients. "I like to know 'Are they exercising?' 'Are they taking calcium?'" She urges patients who smoke to stop, asking them to sign a form committing themselves to giving up cigarettes. She follows up a week later with a phone call to ask, "Have you really quit?"

During routine checkups with her pediatric patients, Lee asks about diet, bowels, sleep patterns, and hobbies. With her teenage patients, she also discusses dating, drinking, smoking, sexual activity, and computer use. "There's a lot of talking," says Lee, pictured here with five-year-old Karen Lo and her mother. In addition to chatting, Lee checks Karen's breathing (above, left) and palpates her spleen (above, right).

After examining five-year-old Alexandra Epstein, Lee sits down (above) and advises her not to turn cartwheels in the street. The girl's exuberance has led to a sore shoulder and neck. While she's at it, Lee discusses good nutrition with her young patient.

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