Member Spotlight

Cece Cheng, MD

San Antonio, TX

Institution: UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

Title: MFM fellow

Medical School: UT Southwestern

Residency: University Hospital, Cleveland Medical Center/Case Western School of Medicine 

Fellowship Training Institution: UT Health Science Center at San Antonio

Personal and Family Background:

Tell us about someone who had an influence on you as child.

My mom. We immigrated to the States when I was young, and both her and my dad actually worked in bench research at the time. She took care of me as my dad pursued residency in a different state and then completed residency herself (in her 40s!) while driving back home every other weekend. She taught me the importance of family, sacrifice and perseverance. 

What was your first job and how did it prepare you for your current position?

My first job was as a hostess at Saltgrass Steakhouse and it taught me how to multi-task and triage. I learned a lot about customer service, how to mediate tense situations, and the importance of working together as a team. These were surprisingly all skills that have translated to the field of medicine. 

Medical Training:

Was there a mentor(s) inspired you?

I’m very grateful to have had great mentorship from people in every step of my training. Dr. Yui Suzuki, whose lab I worked in during college, is one of the people who supported me early in my journey. He was dedicated to his students, very patient, and provided solid mentorship and unbiased advice. I think he recognized that I was going to go into medicine and not basic science even before I did, but still took the time to help teach me research skills that are applicable to this day. I’m also inspired by my former co-residents. We were a small class of 5, and while everyone faced different challenges and lives took different career trajectories, we’ve always supported each other, and everyone has come into their own as young faculty/providers. I only hope I can continue to learn from/with them as we grow.

MFM Practice:

How has your cultural background shaped you as an MFM? 

I know people often say that when you’re a first generation or even 1.5 generation immigrant, sometimes it can feel like you don’t quite belong in either world, and I think to some extent that is true. It certainly took me a while to become comfortable in my own skin, and recognize that bringing a different background or perspective to the table is not necessarily a bad thing. As an MFM, I try to be aware of everyone’s backgrounds and unspoken challenges that patients may face, and really be an advocate for them because it’s hard to navigate a completely foreign system when you’re not familiar with how the system works. I’m also trying to be a good mentor for younger trainees, particularly those who may not have had role models that look like them, and show them all the possibilities that the field of OB/GYN and MFM has to offer. 

Tell us about one of your most memorable patient encounters. 

There is this pivotal moment where I realized I was invested in the intersection of complex family planning and MFM. I had a patient with previable PPROM and she was just days away from what our institution considered ‘viable’. However, she did not want to incur the risks of staying pregnant (hemorrhage, infection, etc) and also did not want our neonatologists to resuscitate a severely premature infant if she were to deliver, so we induced her due to threat to maternal life. It felt like we were racing against the clock to provide the patient with a safe and evidence-based alternative to expectant management, and there was so much pressure, for our team, and also for the patient, to ensure she delivered prior to ‘viability’. As we all know, the political climate has changed drastically over the past few years and the care that patients can access now varies so much by region, that it is exacerbating inequities in care, counseling, and rates of morbidity and mortality. 

Tell us about an MFM colleague who has been an important part of your MFM career.

Dr. John Byrne has been an important research mentor and source of support in fellowship. He has been instrumental in helping me develop research ideas and forming collaborative relationships with MFMs and providers outside of our own institution. These are attributes that I hope to model as I step into the role of being a mentor for others. 

What role has SMFM played in your career?

 SMFM has presented me with the opportunity to participate in meetings and learn from others who are at the top of their fields. It’s always so inspiring hearing about the groundbreaking research that is currently being done. I am also grateful for the SMFM Fellowship Affairs Committee for supporting my research and the Foundation for SMFM for providing me with a chance through the Garite Mini-Sabbatical Grant to broaden my skills in CFP as an MFM. 

In your spare time:

If you had to live one day in your life over and over (think Groundhog Day 1993 Movie), which would you pick?

Honestly, it’s hard to choose just one. I always enjoy spending time with friends and family, but there is so much more to do and see! 

SMFM Mad Libs:

I’m excited to wake up every day and practice Maternal Fetal Medicine because…I enjoy connecting with patients and learning new things. 

If I could solve one problem in MFM it would be…reducing inequitable access to and provision of care.

The best day I ever had as an MFM was…any day I get to talk with patients not just about why they’re coming to see a high-risk doctor, but also learning about their lives and how they got to where they are. 

The hardest day I ever had as an MFM was…watching someone lose their baby and not being able to do anything about it.

My MFM colleagues would be shocked to know…I was a singleton, breech, unanesthetized, FAVD. And was told that is why I’m an only child.