Published on May 25, 2017

Surgeon Gets New Start at NMMC-West Point

WEST POINT, Miss.—When North Mississippi Surgery Clinic opens June 1, it will mark much more than just the opening of a new practice in West Point.

For general surgeon Hiroji Noguchi, M.D., FACS, it will mark the rebirth of his long and commendable career in medicine—a career that cancer almost took from him.

Dr. Noguchi comes to West Point from Honolulu, Hawaii, where he practiced for 18 years. During that time he served as medical director of an outpatient surgery center and as chair of surgery at Castle Medical Center in Kailua, Hawaii. He worked with the transplant team at Queen's Medical Center/University of Hawaii, performing liver and kidney transplants. He has also practiced in California, where he met his wife, the former Vickie Simon, a Columbus native and registered nurse. They were married in 1993.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He received his medical degree from the Creighton University School of Medicine in 1987. He completed an internship at New Britain General Hospital/University of Connecticut. Then he moved to a warmer climate in southern California, where he started a residency in general surgery and a clinical and research fellowship in liver transplantation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He completed a residency in general surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., in 1996.

In 1998 he completed a clinical and research fellowship in hepatobiliary (liver, gallbladder and bile ducts) surgery and liver transplantation at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles. He also completed a vascular surgery preceptorship at Providence Seattle Medical Center in Washington. He is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Noguchi was practicing in Hawaii when tragedy struck: he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, cancer of the bile duct, in August 2014. Because he was fellowship-trained in transplant surgery and specifically liver transplantation, he knew the formidable enemy he was facing. “I was told I probably had three to six months to live,” he said.

He was placed on a liver transplant list at the University of California at Los Angeles. Still practicing full time in Hawaii, for two years he received chemotherapy there while traveling every three months to UCLA for CT scans and doctors’ visits.

In June 2016, the cancer had progressed to the point where he could no longer practice. “My body couldn’t last anymore,” he said. “I couldn’t walk; I couldn’t eat. I thought I was nearing the end.”

The Noguchis moved to Columbus so that Vickie would have the support of family and friends. “Basically, I came here to die,” he said.

But late on the evening of June 28, 2016, they finally got the long anticipated call. “They had found a donor, and they asked if we could be in California in 12 hours,” he said. “We found a 5 a.m. flight out of Memphis, and I had the surgery on June 29.” He spent nine days in the UCLA hospital, and they stayed in Los Angeles for a few months to make sure everything went well.

"I feel fortunate to have another chance. I have so much to give back,” Dr. Noguchi said, joking that he thinks his wife is ready for him to leave the house and work again.

Dr. Noguchi admits that his cancer journey has taught him much. “I learned a lot, being the patient,” he said. “The patient usually does whatever the doctor says because you believe it’s what you have to do. I have learned a lot more about being on the patient side.”

The Noguchis have three children—sons Matthew and Kenji are students at Creighton University (their father’s alma mater) and daughter Maya is a student at San Diego State University studying abroad in Japan this year.

North Mississippi Surgery Clinic opens June 1. For appointment information, call (662) 494- 1509 or 1-800-THE DESK (1-800-843-3375).

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