There is at least one man who Donald Trump may think is superior to him. And his name is Donald Trump.
In 2010, a friend asked Trump if he’d call a well-respected oncologist running the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo to see if he could get his son into a clinical trial there.
So Trump called Dr. Trump.
As it turned out, the young man was already about to be accepted, so Dr. Trump called the other Trump back with the news. While he had him on the line, he asked the celebrity businessman if he’d consider shaving his famous locks for a Roswell fundraiser. Trump demurred but sent along a check and a video message.
In the video, Trump displayed the sort of humility for which he is not known.
“The Roswell Park Cancer Institute is really lucky to have the other Donald Trump, but the other Donald Trump is me because you’re the famous one,” Trump said, standing in his Trump Tower Manhattan office, making his now familiar gesticulations. “I’ve been hearing your name for years and years. … Believe it or not what you do in life is more important than what I do in life. So I’d say Donald L. Trump, which is you, is probably more important than Donald J. Trump, which is me.”
It was the first time Dr. Trump, who will helm the new Inova Schar Cancer Institute in Falls Church, Va., had directly crossed paths with the developer-now-turned-presidential-candidate, although he’s endured years of lighthearted ribbing because of his famous name.
Lately, though, the tenor of those remarks has shifted.
“It’s interesting. In some ways they’ve been less irritating and less intense,” Dr. Trump said. “I think the reactions I get when I introduce myself, or give my credit card or passport at TSA are more sympathetic than they ever have before.”
The two Trumps, each powerful in his way, do have a few things in common. They’re close in age — Dr. Trump is 71 and candidate Trump is 70. They’ve both been divorced twice and are now remarried.
But that may be where the similarities end.
Dr. Trump is a mild-mannered man, who, as it turns out, looks more like Democratic vice-presidential hopeful Tim Kaine in person. Known to friends by his childhood nickname “Skip,” he’d rather talk about scientific advancements than boast of his personal achievements. He openly counts his failed marriages as his biggest regrets.
Dr. Trump gives his own money away to charities, something he recently learned may not have been the case when the other Trump made that 2010 donation to Roswell through the Trump Foundation. While investigating candidate Trump’s charitable giving, Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold thought he’d come across a specimen — only to discover the gift had been made by Dr. Trump.
‘The nicest, kindest man’
People who know Dr. Trump call him empathetic. There’s evidence of it in a picture frame on a console table in his office, which holds photos of two men.
Larry Solomon was a 27-year-old father stricken by an aggressive leukemia when Dr. Trump was a 27-year-old resident assigned to his case in 1971. Solomon died quickly.
Years later, in 1991, Dr. Trump got a letter from Solomon’s son, Leonard Taube, looking for reassurance that he wouldn’t face the same fate. Dr. Trump called the young man and talked him through his fears.
“He spent an hour on the phone with me, calming me down,” Taube said. “He was the nicest, kindest man and gave me a lot of strength to get past the dark place I was at.”
Recently, with the other Trump in the news, Taube reached out to Dr. Trump to thank him again, sending along photos of himself and his dad. Dr. Trump said he’d display them in his office so he’d always be mindful of the importance of his work.
Of course, he’s always mindful. Both of his parents died of cancer. Devoting his life to treating the disease that took theirs “is a light out there that keeps driving [him] forward,” he said.
Sitting in his office earlier this week, Dr. Trump eagerly explained the concept behind a patient-centered cancer treatment program he’s developing. It’s all about empathy, he said.
“I think the highs and the lows [of being a cancer doctor] emphasize to me how important empathy is in this process,” he said.
That quality — empathy — could explain Dr. Trump’s loss of regard for candidate Trump. The other Trump, he said with apparent dismay, lacks “an empathetic molecule in his body.”
The perks of sharing a name
The 2010 interaction wasn’t the first time the two Trumps’ orbits overlapped.
When Donald J. Trump was becoming a household name as a man-about-town in Manhattan in the 1980s, Dr. Trump sent him a letter unabashedly asking him to make a donation to cancer research. He also jokingly asked Trump how to handle all the ridicule he endures for sharing his name.
He didn’t get a donation, but he did get a letter back from Trump’s uncle with some advice that turned out to be pretty prescient for how the real estate mogul has lived his very public life: If the mocking is inevitable, then enjoy it.
When Dr. Trump was hired in 2007 to run the prestigious Roswell Park, one of his patients sent the famous Trump a note suggesting he should recognize the achievement — a not so subtle hint at making a donation. Trump didn’t send money, but Dr. Trump received a congratulatory note on thick Trump letterhead. It was framed in his office for a while, although now it’s stored in his attic.
These days Dr. Trump said he’s going by “Skip” even at work to avoid comparisons. But having the name Donald Trump comes with some perks.
Recently, Dr. Trump was stopped by police in Arlington, Va., after he made an illegal turn. The officer looked at Dr. Trump’s license. With a grin, he asked: “Who are you voting for in November?”
“Well, it depends on who you’re voting for, Officer,” Dr. Trump replied.
The officer smiled, then let Dr. Trump go with an admonishment to be more careful.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the man Dr. Trump treated in 1971. His first name was Larry, not Jerry.)
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