For identical twin brothers Mark and Matt Schultzel, the decision to become doctors was an easy one.
It’s a decision they made at just nine years old, stemming from a mutual desire to care for others—which stayed with them both for decades.
During a family trip to the Himalayas, the brothers were shocked to see local kids about their same age without clothes and food. Mark remembers: “We turned to our parents and we said, ‘Is there something we can do to help these people?’ We just felt terrible, because we lived very privileged lives, and our folks said, ‘If you became physicians, you could go back and help them.’ I think the lightbulb suddenly came on for us.”
Now, Mark (pictured, right) is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and elbow surgery for Synergy Orthopedic Specialists. “We wanted to be doctors to help people—to truly help people,” he says. “We still do that today. We do medical missions, we’re involved in medical volunteering, and I think it really sets the tone for why we do what we do. It’s bigger than yourself.”
The two brothers journeyed through medical school in different cities and at different times, and eventually crossed paths at UC San Diego, where they worked together in the trauma bay.
“We’re more of a team unit,” says Matt (pictured, left). He’s now a general surgeon specializing in robotic and minimally invasive colorectal surgery, and he adds that no matter where they’re operating, they want those hospitals “to be confident that when the Schultzels are in the building, their patients are getting the top care in San Diego.”
The brothers take that top-care mentality seriously. Mark just finished an MBA program at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, created and sold a masking company, and developed an app to improve patient communication. He’s also the founder of a group that mentors college students every year.
Matt is approaching his 1,000th robotic patient case which, according to him, earns him the title of highest-volume robotic surgeon in San Diego County. He also uses his great Dane, Thor, as a therapy dog for his cancer patients.
Mark and Matt both speak multiple languages, enjoy traveling, and practice kendo (Japanese fencing) several times a week—and now they’re adding “Top Doctor” to their list of achievements.
Mark is being recognized as a Top Doctor for the first time, while Matt celebrates his third such honor.
“I feel incredibly humbled and thankful,” Mark says. “There are so many wonderful doctors here in San Diego, so to be selected by peers as a person they trust and would trust their patients and family and friends with is incredibly humbling.”
Matt adds, “It’s one thing to be told you’re a good doctor or to get an online review that validates your surgical acumen or your bedside manner, but it’s a different story when your peer or even your competitor may feel the same way about you. That’s a really great thing.”