Podcast Special Guest, Arby Nahapetian

Arby Nahapetian
Episode 44

In this episode, Japhet De Oliveira welcomes guest Arby Nahapetian as they discuss forgiveness, tough conversations, and why he could eat udon noodles every day.
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"I'm actually looking forward to not fast-forwarding, but if I can, playing at half-speed ... what's the rush?"

Narrator: Welcome, friends, to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira, with his guest today and discover the moments that shape us, our families and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Well, welcome friends, to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast, and I'm super excited to be able to introduce you to a new guest today. He's smiling right now, you can't see him because you can only hear because this is a great podcast, but he's going to join us in a second. When you hear his voice, you'll understand, it's epic, it's epic. So, at any point, at any point. So for anybody -

Arby Nahapetian: No pressure, man, no pressure.

Japhet De Oliveira:  No pressure. There you go. For anybody whose brand new to the podcast, what you should know is that we have a hundred questions and the first 10, I'll ask. And then, the guests gets to choose between 11 and 100. They progressively get more vulnerable, more open, as we go through those numbers. And the guest gets to choose where they want to go. So, without further ado, let's dive in. And, very first one I'd like to ask is what's your name and does anybody ever have any difficulty pronouncing it or any kind of fun with it?

Arby Nahapetian: Never any difficulty pronouncing it, ever. I'm Arby Nahapetian. I've gotten Hapetian, I've gotten Naha, I've gotten Yo, I've gotten Arby. Th funny part is when they call me Dr. Nahapetian, I'm like, Yeah, that's my grandfather, not me. So, I think that's permission to call me Arby, which most people do.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Which most people do. That's brilliant, Arby. Well, we're glad for that. All right. Arby, what do you do for work?

Arby Nahapetian: Still trying to figure that out. I'm an over glorified electrician by trade. I'm an electrophysiologist, which is a form of cardiology and I also happened to be the Chief Medical Officer for the Care Division for Adventist Health, which is our acute care hospitals, our clinics and our post-acute facilities across California, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Japhet De Oliveira:  I've never heard that description of your job, but over glorified, that's brilliant.

Arby Nahapetian: It is what it is.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah. Yeah. It is what it is. That's fantastic. Great. And how long have you been in that role?

Arby Nahapetian: Great question. Since 2012, I believe, if my mental math is correct. So, a little over nine years.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah. That's great. That's great. All right, so really simple one here in the morning. When you get up, what's your drink of choice? Is it water? Is it coffee? Is it tea? Is it one of those liquid green smoothies?

Arby Nahapetian: It is coffee. Very strong, black coffee.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Really. Nothing added to it, just straight black.

Arby Nahapetian: No, no. Why pollute, some would argue, the elixir of all things good. So, I love coffee. I'm a bit of a coffee aficionado and my wife and I have great conversations about finding a bean that we both like. She calls my favorite choices sour, I call hers Starbucks. You can tell I'm not a fan. So, it's some interesting conversations, usually.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's beautiful. That's beautiful. That's great. Yes, that would be a very different taste. All right, Arby, where were you born?

Arby Nahapetian: I was actually born in Iran. My dad was on sabbatical with Stanford University teaching an engineering course and I happened to be born in Tehran, which I can share with you some funny airport stories. Every time I go through an airport that, that they kind of look at me and then they look at the passport and they look at me and they're like, yeah, yeah, yeah, my dad was ... and this was obviously in the seventies, so pre-current state.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah. You would definitely have a few stories to share.

Arby Nahapetian: Indeed, indeed.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's fantastic. So, your dad was in sabbatical, but your mom wasn't there, is what you're saying? This was a miracle birth.

Arby Nahapetian: It was.

Japhet De Oliveira:  OK, right.

Arby Nahapetian: Touche, my friend. Yeah, no, they were both there. And then, when I was about I think four or five months old, we came back to California, to Northern California, actually

Japhet De Oliveira:  Northern California.

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira:  So, that's home for you, as well. Have you actually ever been backed over there to where you were born?

Arby Nahapetian: I have not.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Never, never visit. Okay.

Arby Nahapetian: No, never have. I've been close, I've been to Armenia dozens of times and I happen to be Armenian by ethnicity, but not to Iran.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Oh, wow. Good figure. That's brilliant. All right. When you were a child in Northern California, is that where you grew up in Northern California?

Arby Nahapetian: Early part.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah.

Arby Nahapetian: And then my dad left academics. He had a few offers to go work in industry at these tiny little companies called Microsoft and Oracle, but he knew that the future was in aviation and aeronautics. And so, he came down to Southern California, which is where the defense industry was. And so, we moved, I think I was probably around seven or eight, down to Southern California, what is now called Calabasas, back then was Unincorporated LA County.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Beautiful. And when you were a kid, what did you imagine you were going to grow up to be?

Arby Nahapetian: A pilot. My dad actually flew gliders and I watched him go up a bunch of times. I never actually got to go up, and so it became this interesting field to pursue for me. And, I had back then, really going to date myself Amigas and Ataris and I would download Flight Simulator.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes.

Arby Nahapetian: And so, let's just say I'm quite proficient in electronically flying anything, but that said, I've never done an actual flight.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Well, they say if we're good enough in that, we can do the real thing.

Arby Nahapetian: There you go.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Allegedly, allegedly. We'll have to see.

Arby Nahapetian: There you go.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hey, if people were to just describe your personality and they would describe you as introvert or an extrovert, what would they say? And would you agree?

Arby Nahapetian: I think they'd probably say extrovert and I would probably disagree. I think my extroversion is contextual. I would very much enjoy being at hermit for a year. I'd probably take my wife and kids. Actually, I definitely would take my wife and kind of live in isolation for awhile. It's kind of a very attractive prospect. But, in the right context, I definitely can go extrovert, but most of the time I'm kind of in my own head.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hey, I understand. I understand. So, now are you an early riser or late night owl?

Arby Nahapetian: Medicine has ruined me. I used to be able to sleep until 2:00 PM. I haven't been able to do that since medical school and rightly or wrongly, I'm a kind of 4:30 AM kind of guy.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah. There is something about the early morning. It's kind of beautiful.

Arby Nahapetian: There's a peace, get by bunch of stuff done and maybe that's kind of the Sal for my introversion and then I can kind of let loose during -

Japhet De Oliveira:  Replenish yourself.

Arby Nahapetian: There you go.

Japhet De Oliveira:  So, in the morning, this morning, what was your first thought that went through your mind?

Arby Nahapetian: This morning kind of had a big presentation to do, was prepping for that and kind of running through the sequence of what I was going to say in my head.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's great. That's great. And now here's a leadership question. It's our last question before we dive into the section where you get to choose. Are you are a backseat driver?

Arby Nahapetian: Short answer would be I'm usually driving.

Japhet De Oliveira:  OK.

Arby Nahapetian: So, I don't give myself the opportunity to be there. If I did, oh, yes, I would be.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Right. Fair enough, fair enough. That was beautiful. Actually, there's a few other people close to you that have given pretty much the same answer.

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. All right. That's brilliant. Okay. So, it is over to you now, Arby, and you get to pick between 11 and 100. Where would you like to go first?

Arby Nahapetian: 99.

Japhet De Oliveira:  99. All right. And here we go.

Arby Nahapetian: Let's go 99.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah, let's do, let's do it. What is the most difficult truth you have ever told?

Arby Nahapetian: Most difficult truth I have ever told, wow. Probably something akin to someone's performance and how it wasn't meeting muster and that that individual happened to be a friend. And so, kind of processing that dissonance of I'm potentially hurting somebody who I value, who I consider kind of closer a friend and, at the same time, hoping that it's taken in a positive as opposed to a negative in terms of kind of constructive criticism versus, Hey, I want you here to destroy my self-esteem.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Not an easy one. Not an easy one ever.

Arby Nahapetian: It wasn't.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah.

Arby Nahapetian: Definitely wasn't.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah. All right. So, you handled 99. Where do you want to go next?

Arby Nahapetian: Let's go to 32.

Japhet De Oliveira:  32. All right. If you were featured on the local news, what would the new story likely be?

Arby Nahapetian: Hmm.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hmm.

Arby Nahapetian: That's a good one.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah.

Arby Nahapetian: So, let's pivot professional, not personal, and professionally I'd say it would feature the celebration of kind of a clinical team accomplishment and kind of being best in class in a situation where best in class was not expected.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Mm.

Arby Nahapetian: In the David and Goliath kind of mix, I'm definitely on the David side of the house. And so, it would be kind of celebrating a Davidian victory, if you will, as opposed to the victory that is expected or presumed.

Japhet De Oliveira:  I like that, I like that analogy and I like that story, as well. That would be a great story. Actually, we need to work that story in sometimes, for sure. I know that it happens.

Arby Nahapetian: It does, it does.

Japhet De Oliveira:  It does happen. It does happen, thanks to your leadership and your great team that you work with, as well. So, it is phenomenal. All right -

Arby Nahapetian: The team that I lead is a fantastic team.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah, no, it is. It is. Where do you want to go off to 32?

Arby Nahapetian: Let's go 18.

Japhet De Oliveira:  18. All right, here we go. If you had to eat just one meal for a month, just one meal for a month, what would you choose?

Arby Nahapetian: Udon.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Udon.

Arby Nahapetian: All day, every day.

 Japhet De Oliveira:  Every day.

 Arby Nahapetian: Without batting -

 Japhet De Oliveira:  That was a little bit fast. That was a little bit fast.

 Arby Nahapetian: In a past life, I may have been Japanese or I have some affinity for all things Japanese cuisine. It is very much -

 Japhet De Oliveira:  It's home for you.

 Arby Nahapetian: It is, it is. And, it's as different as different gets from my ethnic cuisine, which is obviously Armenian, and what I grew up on, which is obviously American cuisine. Japanese food was not a common thing, even in a place like Los Angeles, back in the day.

 Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah. That's great. That's great. Okay. If I were going to add an A to this particular, you must know all the great places then that has great -

Arby Nahapetian: So, I did residency and fellowship in the city that happens to have the highest concentration of Japanese outside of Japan here are in LA County.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Huh.

Arby Nahapetian: And I had access to the best soba noodles, handmade soba noodles, handmade Udon noodles, outside of any of the little Tokyos around the world. This is the creme de la creme. And so, I can give you gradations of Udon, with the broth and with the sansei vegetables. I can go on, I can go on. I'll try not to.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Are you hungry right now?

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah, sadly, I am now. Sadly.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Now, you're thinking about this, it's been a long day.

Arby Nahapetian: It has, it has.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Oh, it is great. That's great. All right. Where do you want to go next?

Arby Nahapetian: Let's go up to 67.

Japhet De Oliveira:  67. All right then. What's the best picture you've ever taken and why?

Arby Nahapetian: Hmm. It's a good one. Is a picture of my daughter, my middle daughter, kissing her older brother after, and this is when they're obviously much younger, they would be embarrassed that we told the story.

Japhet De Oliveira:  If you told them now.

Arby Nahapetian: The older one had fallen and she was kissing the booboo to make it better. And I happened to have a camera handy and I took that picture and it's in our bedroom kind of proudly displayed and both to them hate it, but it ain't moving and both my wife and I love it.

Japhet De Oliveira:  And why do you love it so much, Arby?

Arby Nahapetian: You know, it's kind of pure sibling love and manifestations of the older one's always the hero kind of jumping off of cliffs and doing crazy things. And my daughter, so we have two boys in the girl, and my middle daughter is very much the caretaker and could probably jump higher, faster and better than the other two combined, but then will kind of revert to this it's okay, you missed the jump and you hurt yourself, let me take care of you. And, that nuance was awesome.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That carries a lot.

Arby Nahapetian: All in a nanosecond.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That carries a lot. That's beautiful. That's actually how life should be, right, with people?

Arby Nahapetian: I think. Highlight those kinds of things as opposed to kind of the less pleasant and the less enticing.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hmm. That's beautiful. It's beautiful. Good. Good. I have so many questions I want to ask you, but I'm resisting, resisting. All right. Now, what number next?

Arby Nahapetian: Let's go to seven.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Seven. All right. Oh, no. Seven actually is already covered in front questions.

Arby Nahapetian: Taken. All right.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes, I know. So close but yet so far.

Arby Nahapetian: Let's go to 89.

Japhet De Oliveira:  89. All right, here we go.

Arby Nahapetian: It was a good year.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Good. What is the most impactful no you said recently?

Arby Nahapetian: Hmm.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hmm.

Arby Nahapetian: Hmm. That's a good one. Actually, it was someone asking if they could be promoted. And it was sort of a painful situation, actually, because I don't think there was a lot of insight into their readiness. I think future state, they would, but at the time they weren't ready and let's just say it wasn't well received. And then, about three, four days later, same individual came up to me and said, the points you made were valid, I just wasn't in a place to appreciate them at the time and I'm going to work on them. I said, fantastic. Let's keep calling. And, it was a very pleasant surprise, because I was worried for awhile about that individual's tenure and if they would stay.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah.

Arby Nahapetian: But they weren't ready and, thankfully, I think the communication was such that they appreciated the message.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's great, that's great.

Arby Nahapetian: No's not always easy to deliver.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Not always easy. Not always easy. No. That's great and impactful. That's good. Good. All right. After 89, where next?

Arby Nahapetian: 91.

Japhet De Oliveira:  91. Describe a time in your life when you learned about forgiveness.

Arby Nahapetian: Hmm.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hmm.

Arby Nahapetian: Kids. It's fascinating. As a physician, we tend to be shielded because we are the "subject matter expert" and everything we say comes from on high and is true and this and that and the other. And, there's a lot of humility that is brought when one has children and always striving to do better, always striving to kind of be a better parent and it's fascinating. There was a, I forget what the scenario was, but I happened to be dropping my dad off at his house. Yeah. My mom had gone somewhere and I was just doing him a favor and he sort of asked me to pull over side of the road. I was just like, Dad, come on. You know, we're almost there. Do we can talk? No, no, no, Arby, pull over. Okay. So, I pull over and I'm thinking to myself, Is he going to tell me has cancer. What's going on?

And, he's like, I'm going to give you a little bit of advice. I rarely give unsolicited advice, but I'm going to give you advice. I said, Dad, come on. Let's go already. I've got places be, people to see. He's like, you tend to be really hard on your oldest and occasionally you need to cut him some slack. And, I'm saying this as a kind of distant observer this, that the other. And he said something interesting. He's like, you know who tends to have troubled children? It's doctors and lawyers. And guess what you are and guess what your wife is? And so, it's kind of one of these sobering moments where you're kind of thinking to yourself, Am I that helicopter parent? Am I setting expectations that are unreal too early, too much, too high? And, are we letting them be?

And at the time I think my oldest, he was 14. It was awhile ago. And, it was a fascinating conversation and very direct one and it was sort of an indictment of how I needed to be a little bit more forgiving.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah.

Arby Nahapetian: And, I'll tell you very few conversations like that I remember, that's definitely one of them. And I think I have learned and to be much more forgiving and not sweating the small things.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Mm.

Arby Nahapetian: And interestingly, my oldest is at a school-based retreat, he actually left today. And part of the work for that retreat is for each parent to write their own personal letter that describes kind of a manifestation of love for the child.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Wow.

Arby Nahapetian: And, I did and my wife did it, both his siblings did it and all four grandparents did the same, in addition to the aunts and the uncles on both sides. So, I have a sister and my wife as a sister. It's fascinating. We had, I think a total of 13, 14 letters.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Oh, wow.

Arby Nahapetian: And this was one of the stories I referenced, because we were asked to reference particular stories, and I sort of said, I'm hoping you sense the difference. And if you didn't, I'm sorry and I will work harder. Funny you should ask this question today, as he heads off and will read those letters. They're all a surprise, by the way. So, he is going to read it kind of as part of the exercise at the retreat.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's really powerful, Arby. And, I agree with your dad and agree with you, as well, that there's something incredibly powerful and liberating about forgiveness.

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah, totally.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Right.

Arby Nahapetian: I think in and of itself is a manifestation of love that we're necessarily used to.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes.

Arby Nahapetian: And I would hope that I have become more used to it. And it's, to your point, incredibly liberating.

Japhet De Oliveira:  It's hard to receive just as much as it's hard to give.

Arby Nahapetian: Yes, yes. Fair, fair.

Japhet De Oliveira:  But when you can do both, it's incredible.

Arby Nahapetian: Totally.

Japhet De Oliveira:  It's incredible. It just grows, you become a better person. And, I do believe you're right. It is a manifestation of love. I love that. That's true. Forgiveness is a manifestation of love. I'm going to take that as a quote. That's beautiful.

Arby Nahapetian: There you go.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's fantastic. All right. Where next? Thank you for sharing that.

Arby Nahapetian: 72.

Japhet De Oliveira:  72. All right, here we go. Tell us about what you want to do when you retire and then why are you waiting?

Arby Nahapetian: Wow. There's a loaded question. So, and this is going to sound odd, I had a recent medical situation and, it's funny, during that whole kind of 24, 48 hours, COVID related.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes.

Arby Nahapetian: Where, kind of thinking back and people talk about this, your life flashing before you, blah, blah, blah. I mean, I had none of that. It was more kind of, Hey, did I do everything I wanted to do? I have been incredibly fortunate in my life. My initial gut answer was actually, Yes, I have. Would I have liked to have seen my children grow up, get married, do whatever they're going to do? Yeah, probably, but whatever, we can't dictate everything. But in terms of the things within my control, I have been fortunate to live a no regrets turtle life. And I know very people do, so I'm highly appreciative of that. In terms of the one or two things, maybe, 48 hours later, I thought about it. I was like, I really love architecture. And could that be, at some point in time, sort of a second career? And, ironically, going back to childhood, the pilot thing, Is this the time to go learn a fly plane -

Japhet De Oliveira:  Wow, nice.

Arby Nahapetian: Outside of the Atari or the Amiga kind of world. Yeah. And so, those are two things that I'm going to probably pursue.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's brilliant.

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Oh, good for you.

Arby Nahapetian: I've not broken out the old Atari, but, I may practice a little bit.

Japhet De Oliveira:  You'd probably be a little bit disappointed.

Arby Nahapetian: I think so, too. I think so, too.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yeah, I know. I know. I know. That's great. That's fantastic. All right. We have time for two more. So, where do you want to go with the last two numbers?

Arby Nahapetian: Let's do 38 and -

Japhet De Oliveira:  38.

Arby Nahapetian: 41.

Japhet De Oliveira:  All right. All right, here we go. 38. If you needed encouragement, who would you call?

Arby Nahapetian: My wife.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hmm.

Arby Nahapetian: Very simple. And if it goes to voicemail, probably my parents.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's nice.

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's great. That's beautiful.

Arby Nahapetian: They're my usual go-to's.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hey, that's beautiful. That's good. That's a good indication and beautiful. Family's really important. Good. All right. I'll ask 41. Is that right?

Arby Nahapetian: That's 41.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That’s right. All right. This is actually a great question to end on. What are you excited about in life right now?

Arby Nahapetian: Hmm. Coming out of COVID, to be really, kind of simple, simple things, really looking forward to not having that be the topic of conversation clinically and at work. Obviously an important topic, not that we shouldn't be talking about it right now, but I'd look to a date where it becomes not our number one priority by virtue, it not being as persistent or at some point in time, I'd love it to go the way of small box, meaning a non-existent disease other than a test tube.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes.

Arby Nahapetian: What other things do I look forward to? Life experience, more life experience. Again, I had that opportunity to kind of rewind a bit. I'm actually really looking forward to not fast forwarding, but rather, if I can, actually playing at half speed. I'm going to date myself here. You ready? The turn tables, I want to switch down to 33 from 45.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Hey, I know that speed.

Arby Nahapetian: Yeah, there you go. I have a new appreciation. And then, I look forward to being able to kind of taking more juice out of the fruit as we go and taking it a little bit more slowly. Like, what's the rush?

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes, it's true. And, I think actually, Arby, I thank you for that answer because I think it actually speaks into who you are as Chief Medical Officer and with your life, with who you are as a character, as well. That you want to savor those moments, that life is important, family's important, the community you serve, your colleagues who have tremendous for you and see you as a great leader.

Arby Nahapetian: They're very poor judges of character, very poor judges of character.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Oh, no, no. It's so true, Arby. This is the blessing, this is the blessing that you are to Adventist Health. And, I think that's good wisdom for all the people who are listening, as well, that there is often this pressure to go, go, go so quick that you miss some of those beautiful moments. And we should actually slow down sometimes just to be able to capture those moments. Maybe it can become a painting, a picture for our bedroom.

Arby Nahapetian: It's about the vistas along the way and not necessarily the last vista. And so, enjoying those, I think, was a nice midlife lesson.

Japhet De Oliveira:  Yes.

Arby Nahapetian: For me, at least.

Japhet De Oliveira:  That's true. That's true. Beautiful. Well, thank you so much for being part of this and for sharing just a snippet of the stories and experiences that shaped you. I want to encourage all of our listeners to do the same. If you've not done this recently, just share some of your own stories and experiences with your friends, with your colleagues, listen as well because by doing so, you change the world, you make it a more beautiful place, a better place, and we can be an incredible force for good. God bless you, look after to you and, again, Arby, thank you so much for your time.

Arby Nahapetian: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for The Story & Experience Podcast. We invite you to read, watch and submit your story and experience at AdventisHealth.org/Story. The Story & Experience Podcast was brought to you by Adventist Health through the Office of Culture.