Heroes Among Us


From the battlefield to the ER, these brothers continue their mother’s legacy: ‘She was a warrior’

Posted at 3:58 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 16:41:00-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ever since they can remember, Chris and Alex Pais have been following the same path step by step. The brothers separated by four years share a deep dedication to family, country and strangers.

Their father, Anthony, was a United States Marine. Their, mother, Jane, a nurse.

"Service to others was always emphasized, maybe not explicitly, but it was present," Chris recalled about their upbringing.

The siblings served their nation, Chris served in the National Guard and Alex in the United States Marines.

"It wasn’t whether I was going to join the military. That is just what I was going to do," Alex said.

Each brother deployed to Iraq.

"Being in the military is a good litmus test to going through stressful situation and how you react to it," Chris said.

"I’ve always wanted to be a part of something that is bigger than myself," he added. "And this seemed like the perfect role."

Their selflessness reached a pinnacle about three years ago with one decision.

"I remember distinctly a phone conversation we had. I asked, 'Are you going to do it? If you do it I’ll do it,’” Alex said.

Alex and Chris are choosing a life of serving others.

Both are studying at VCU School of Medicine.

Med students Alex and Chris Pais, photographed at the McGlothlin Medical Education Center Sunday morning, September 15, 2019. (Skip Rowland)

"I am a year ahead of him, but I still look up to him in this process," Alex said.

"Through these shared experiences you become closer," Chris said. "The experiences change you and they change you. You change together."

The brothers chose a career in medicine during their beloved mother’s seven-year battle with ovarian cancer.

"It gives you a reason to be thankful of the time you have. Yes. It is difficult,” Chris said.

Jane Pais passed away in November 2018.

"Our father was a Marine, but she was a warrior,” Alex said.

"She might not be here today, but she is still present in my mind and that is comforting," Chris said.

The future surgeons share a goal beyond school. They both want to care for fellow veterans.

"I think a career at the VA would be extremely fulfilling," Alex said.

"It’s a patient population that I understand, and I can relate to," Chris added.

Along the path of life Chris and Alex will carry on their mother’s legacy all while keeping pace with each other.

"It was such an intersection of time and space I feel very fortunate that my brother and I can do our trip into medicine together," Chris said.

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