The Powerful Connection between Doctor and Patient

With almost fifty medical professionals in the Detroit Dawoodi Bohra community, we decided to mark World Cancer Day by closely examining what drives a doctor to pursue their chosen profession and the powerful effects that a doctor’s care can also have on a patient’s family. 

Dr. Mustafa Boxwala is a renowned retired Hematologist-Oncologist from our Detroit community.  An immigrant like so many others, Dr. Boxwala made Detroit his home and treated thousands of patients in his career.

Recently we learned of two patients who were treated by Dr. Boxwala, both related to Jon Unruh, the Chief of the City of Farmington Hills Fire Department.  As a first-responder himself, Chief Unruh has seen so much in his career.  It was enlightening to hear the effects of Dr. Boxwala’s care for his own family and how it helped them get through a devastating diagnosis, not once but twice.

Below is an excerpt of our interviews with Dr. Boxwala and Chief Unruh that highlight the dedication required to become a doctor and how important the doctor’s approach is to a family at one of the most critical times in their lives.  It is a closely weaved relationship that can breed powerful results for all involved.

Dr. Boxwala, tell us about your journey to becoming a doctor?

I worked for 30 years as a Medical Oncologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. However, it required over a decade of further education to reach this position of an oncologist. My path to becoming a doctor started in India where I gained my Indian School Certificate (ISC) in Mumbai (the equivalent of completing high school here in the United States).  I then went on to complete two years of college at undergraduate level, and 5.5 years of medical school in Mumbai. After immigrating to the United States, I completed a year of Anatomic Pathology followed by three years of Internal Medicine Residency. Although many may think that would get me to my final post, I actually ended up practicing for a year as an internist and then completed two years of an Oncology Fellowship at William Beaumont Hospital.

Why did you choose to specialize as an oncologist?

While being a resident of Anatomic Pathology, I got interested in treating cancer.  After practicing Internal Medicine for a year, I decided to make oncology my specialty.

What brought you to the USA and why did you choose to practice in Michigan?

Family.  My wife’s siblings were settled in the USA.  I was accepted into a residency program here in Michigan and ultimately it became where I chose to practice medicine. My life has come full circle as I now get to spend time with my kids and grandchildren in Michigan.

Has your professional career changed your outlook in life?

I believe I have a deeper appreciation of how consistently striving to remain informed and committed to one’s profession enables everything else in life to fall into place. 

What advice would you give young medical professionals? 

Be up to date in your knowledge base, gain as much experience as you can, know your priorities, be loyal to your patients, learn the business side of the practice and maintain a high ethical and moral standard.  Financial success will be a byproduct of your good work.  

Chief Unruh, how long have you been the Fire Department Chief?

I have been a Firefighter for 37 years.  Seven of those years have been as Chief of the Farmington Hills Fire Department.  Prior to that, I had a full career with the Livonia Fire Department, where I retired as Captain.

Can you tell us about your father’s experience with Dr. Mustafa Boxwala?

Dr. Boxwala helped my dad with his diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma.  Dr. Boxwala navigated my dad through the proper treatment, some of that being cutting edge treatment and care.  My dad and our family appreciated Dr. Boxwala’s conservative but effective treatment to allow him to have an excellent quality of life while keeping a good handle on disease progression.

Are there any other experiences you would like to share with us?

Our second experience with Dr. Boxwala was when he diagnosed my wife’s father with Pancreatic Cancer.  Dr. Boxwala offered two treatment options to him and the family: aggressive chemotherapy drugs with horrible side effects allowing 12-18 months of life or supportive care that allowed for a high quality of life with 6 months of life.  My father-in-law decided on the latter and the family was so incredibly thankful for that option.

What we learned:

According to the American Cancer Society, “One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime”.  Despite a cancer diagnosis, there is hope when we look to professionals like Dr. Boxwala.  His commitment to continued education and compassion made such a powerful impact on the patients he treated.  Families of patients continue to be a vital part of a treatment plan.  Chief Unruh’s perspective highlights the need for a strong doctor-patient relationship that allows for families to make a choice that is right for them at the time.


Want access to additional resources about cancer?  Learn more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *