For eight days this summer, Eric Hoenig, M.D., of Benicia seized the opportunity to experience his first medical mission in Ecuador, where he and a team of volunteers treated some 250 people each day. With a long-term goal to educate the community, the team set up clinics at schools and churches where families drove for miles to be diagnosed, sometimes five people piled onto a single motorcycle. “I got much more from the experience than I gave,” he said.
Eric chose medicine in part because of its range of opportunities, but also because it’s in his blood. As the youngest of five, he grew up in Lorain, Ohio. His older brother and grandfather became doctors, and his mother and aunt were nurses. He studied medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where he met is wife, Emily Ann Thomas. Together they completed their Internal Medicine residencies at Ohio State University before moving to Benicia in 1997, when they both took jobs at Kaiser Permanente.
Now Eric specializes in diagnosing patients who are sick enough to be admitted to John Muir Medical Center in Concord. As “hospitalist,” he is responsible for all patients on the hospital floor, and consults in the emergency room. “I enjoy the diagnostic aspects of the job; I’m a problem solver,” he says.
But he doesn’t just consider himself a physician. He works only two graveyard shifts a week so he can be home for his 14-year-old twin boys, Noah and Jacob, and their rescue puppy Nico. He rock climbs with the boys, and builds cabinets and furniture for his beautiful Victorian home, the historic Timothy Sage House, built in 1851. His wife Emily passed away from breast cancer in 2013, just six months after they moved in, but her love is palpable there. “Everyone who knew her will tell you that she had such a kind, big heart. And, she is the constant voice in my head,” says Eric.
As a couple, they dreamed about doing medical mission work together when there was more time. Eric lived out that dream for the two of them. He looks forward to returning to Ecuador next year, perhaps this time with their sons.