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Healthy Balance

7 Quick Questions with Colorectal Surgeon Charles Friel

headshot of colorectal surgeon Charles Friel
Colorectal surgeon Charles Friel, MD

Colorectal surgeon Charles Friel, MD, treats patients with a wide range of digestive health conditions, including:

  • Colon, anal, rectal and intestine cancers
  • Colon polyps
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis

Friel is also a vocal advocate for colorectal cancer screening, sometimes doubling as “Paulie Polyp” to spread awareness.

Meet a UVA Health Colorectal Surgeon

Friel is originally from Boston and has been at UVA since 2001. We asked him our 7 Quick Questions.

1. Why did you become a doctor?

Truthfully? My mom thought it would be a good idea! But seriously, she saw in me a love for science, problem solving and the desire to work with people. In the end, my mother was right.

2. Why did you choose your specialty?

Colorectal surgery provides a wide breadth of clinical problems, complexity of operations and patient populations. No day is the same. I am lucky to have that variety in medicine.

3. What’s your favorite thing about Charlottesville?

The restaurants are great — and the mountains just around the corner. The best of both worlds.

4. Where did you grow up?

In the suburbs of Boston…which makes me a Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins fan!

Colon Cancer Diagnosis?

Learn more about colon, anal and rectal cancer treatment at UVA.

5. What’s the most exciting thing/research happening in your field right now?

We used to operate on everyone with rectal cancer. Now we are able to cure many without surgery. That is exciting for our patients!

6. Who is your inspiration/hero?

It may sound corny but my father was hard working, brilliant and very kind. If I am at all like him, I would be happy.

7. What’s your favorite thing about working at UVA?

The people are all dedicated to their craft. We are lucky to have such a great team.

View Transcript

My name’s Charlie Friel and I’m a surgeon here at the University of Virginia and I do colon and rectal surgery. Largely, I got into medicine for the same reasons that lots of people get into medicine. It was an opportunity for me to use what I hoped my skillsets were. I enjoy working with people. I enjoy trying to make people feel better, and it just seemed like it was a good opportunity for me to take those two strengths of mine and apply them to the, hopefully, the health of our community.

The type of patients I see at the University of Virginia are patients that have diseases of the colon or rectum, and that’s a wide range of patients. It ranges from people with kind of minor problems from hemorrhoids and little infections of their bottom to really major problems with colon cancer and rectal cancer.

There’s also other benign diseases like ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis. So, it’s a wide range of patients but it’s all related to either the colon or rectal area.

It’s very gratifying for me to be able to do an operation where I can take somebody who’s struggling with something and then really improve the quality of their life. I have the opportunity to cure people of really difficult problems. I get to cure them of cancer, which is a pretty amazing thing, and I’m lucky to be a part of that process.

I think the benefit to come to the University of Virginia for healthcare in general is that we have a breadth of people that are experts in their fields. Not only do you get potentially the expertise of me, for example, but you get all the expertise of my colleagues.

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