Career Acquisition: He Went From Investment Banker To Cardiovascular Surgeon

The idea was to not do what his parents did. That was the master plan. No medicine. No patients. No hospitals.

Joel Samson Corvera grew up with a mom who practiced internal medicine and a dad who was an orthopedic surgeon. All his friends’ parent were doctors – a community of people from the Philippines who had come to the United States in the 1960s to get medical training.

“That’s what I grew up with —  two doctors in the family – I couldn’t fake being sick,” says Dr. Corvera, an aortic and cardiovascular surgeon at IU Health Methodist Hospital. “Doctors all around.”

And so, Dr. Corvera had it all figured out. He would blaze his own trail, despite his parents’ hopes that he or one of his two siblings might go into medicine.

No. He would be an investment banker on Madison Avenue in New York City.

The day he graduated from college, his dad said to him, just once more: “Hey, you can still go to medical school if you want.”

Dr. Corvera politely declined and joined a company doing mergers and acquisitions. He made $20,000 a year with the incentive of monstrous bonuses. Those bonuses were to come once a month, whenever a deal was closed.

But it happened to be the early 1990s when the merger market went from gangbusters to zero, says Dr. Corvera.

And he never — not one time in the nine months he worked as an investment banker — saw a bonus.

“We closed no deals,” says Dr. Corvera. “Not one. We had nothing.”

And so, the phone call had to be made. A humbling phone call. His dad picked up the line.

“How’s that medical school idea, dad? Is that deal still good?” Dr. Corvera asked him.

The answer from his father was yes.

Dr. Corvera started on a path to a new career acquisition. It was nothing at all like the one he was in, but it was where he ultimately realized he should be.

“I found out very early that my personality did not fit the mergers and acquisitions scene,” says Dr. Corvera, who came to IU Health in 2009. “I realized what I really wanted to do was help people.”

Just like his parents did.

As an aortic and cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Corvera does a lot of aneurysm work. He gets to build long-term relationships with his patients.

Most who come to see him are very sick and in need of surgery.

“You’re dealing with life and death kind of stuff a lot,” he says. “The whole point is you’re trying to help. And I love the relationships that I form with my patients.” 

More with Dr. Corvera

Personal: He is married to Mary Lester, M.D., a plastic surgeon at Methodist who specializes in breast reconstruction after cancer. They met during their general surgery residencies and have two children, a boy and a girl.

Outside of Methodist: Dr. Corvera loves spending time with his family and trying different restaurants with his wife.

Bonus fact: At one point, when the hospital tracked minutes in the operating room, Dr. Corvera was No. 1 on that list. A short surgery for him is six to eight hours, with some surgeries lasting as long as 16 hours.

What he likes about his specialty: “It’s technically demanding. The operations tend to be long and complicated. And it’s so rewarding when people do well.”

Read more about Dr. Lester’s story here.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.