NJP (Nice Jewish Person) Andrew Banooni

Each month, The Well highlights an amazing (and eligible!) individual.
This month, we have a conversation with NJP (Dr.) Andrew Banooni!

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TW: How did you decide to make your adult life in Metro Detroit?

AB: I grew up in the Detroit area, in Bloomfield Hills.  After high school I left Michigan.  I spent four years at Yale for college, four years at Emory for medical school, and five years at Harvard for residency and fellowship.  So after 13 years away, with my school and training finished, I started looking for jobs around the country.  I was lucky enough to find a job I love close to home and close to my family.  So I took the plunge and moved back here.  It’s been really great to explore Detroit and its renaissance, and to see how much things have changed here while I was gone.  I’ve been back almost a year, and I love it so far!

TW: You spend your days practicing medicine and working as an Assistant Professor -- tell us more!

AB: I am an anesthesiologist, with a subspecialty board certification in pediatric anesthesia.  I can pinpoint my decision to pursue this career to a specific moment in medical school.  I found myself looking down at the worried eyes of a seven-year-old boy, who was about to have a port placed to treat his newly diagnosed cancer.  Holding his hand, I answered each of his questions about the equipment in the room.  “You remember the stickers on your chest?”  He blinked, and nodded.  “Those stickers—and that screen—let me see how your heart is doing.”  He looked at me with wide blue eyes, and whispered, “Does the screen tell you my heart feels scared?”  “No,” I replied.  “The screen tells me your heart is very brave.”  He smiled, and fell asleep peacefully.  I treasure moments like this. No matter their age, I take pride in being able to gain their trust, mitigate their fears, and put them at ease in the very short time before they have surgery.  Plus, I am naturally silly, so I enjoy bringing that aspect of my personality to bear at work.

As for being an assistant professor, I have loved teaching for a long time.  I was a teaching fellow at Harvard Medical School during my residency and pediatric fellowship.  When I moved here, I was offered an appointment at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.  I teach medical students and residents regularly in the hospital. I also act as a mentor to a group of 21 medical students, meeting with them throughout their four years and helping in any way I can.  It’s been a tremendously rewarding experience so far. 

TW: What is a hobby that you are really into? How did that passion come about?

AB: I absolutely love to travel.  Whether it’s getting in my car for impromptu road trips, or venturing internationally, I am frequently working on sating my wanderlust.  Each trip fuels my wishes to explore even more of the vistas, foods and cultures of the world.  I’m going to Japan in a couple weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited!

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TW: You're a graduate of Yale University - what was Jewish life like there?

AB: Yale was roughly 15-20% Jewish, and so the Hillel there had a lot to offer.  One of my favorite memories about being Jewish at Yale was celebrating the holidays.  Anyone was welcome to participate in a Passover seder, Jewish or not, so with the Hillel’s assistance, I hosted a seder every year and invited a mixed group to celebrate.  Those of us who were Jewish would have fun sharing our personal traditions with each other and with those who had never been to a seder before.  It was awesome.

TW: What's your favorite book and what about it moves you?

AB: I would probably say The Giver.  It was the first dystopian novel I ever read, and reading it as a kid, I was exposed to the genre at such a formative age.  It really had a profound effect on my view of the world, and it has a lot to do with my desire to help those around me.  I still love to read.  I just finished reading American Gods, and I’m working on 1Q84 now.

TW: Where would you most like to travel to that you haven't visited?

AB: New Zealand.

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TW: How do you like to give back to the community / others?

AB: I find giving back to the community very rewarding.  My daily practice as a physician fills me with a strong sense of service.  Additionally, over the years, I have organized free health screenings in underserved communities, raised money for and volunteered time at a women’s shelter, and donated to various charities.  The best experiences I’ve had, however, came on international surgical relief missions to foreign countries.  Most recently, I went to Ecuador and provided anesthesia so children could have their cleft lips and palates repaired.  I hope to continue to do this for years to come.

TW: What's your favorite Jewish holiday and why? 

AB: I’m a Sephardic Jew, and as such, my favorite holiday is probably Rosh Hashana, because it’s the most different.  My family’s celebration goes much farther than just apples and honey.  Much like the passover seder, each of the nine things we eat on Rosh Hashana has symbolism behind it…and is so tasty.

TW: Fav Jewish food?

AB: My mom’s chicken soup recipe.  I love to make it.  It’s got a Persian twist, with cumin and some other spices.  Over some Persian-style rice, it’s soooo good. 

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TW: Who is the coolest Jew?

AB: Have you ever listened to Adam Sandler’s Hannukah Song?  Pretty much everyone in that song.  

TW: Who would win in a fight between a Grilled Cheese and a Taco?

AB: Oh man.  Soft-shelled or hard-shelled taco?  I feel like grilled cheese would beat a hard shelled taco any day—it might crack under the pressure—but I think a soft-shelled taco would get jalapeño business.

TW: How about a fun fact?

AB: I can speak five languages.  (English, French, Farsi, Hebrew, and some Japanese)

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TW: Best movie ever made, hands down?

AB: The Princess Bride.  I’ve seen it more times than I care to admit, and I still laugh every time.

TW: Finish the sentence: When I go to The Well…

AB: …I feel welcomed into a warm community!

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