It happens nearly every day, every time he says his name over the phone or exchanges business cards or pays for a bill with his credit card. First there is the pause, then the slight smirk or raised eyebrow and finally the stale joke. Something like, "Ha ha, you're fired!"
Such is the life of Dr. Donald L. Trump, an oncologist and cancer institute executive of no relation to Donald J. Trump, the bombastic businessman and Republican presidential candidate.
Whenever Dr. Trump shows someone his passport or credit card, "80% of the time someone will make a comment or will look at me, and you know what they're thinking. I'm sure it's that way with lots of other folks who share names with famous people," he said.
"As you might imagine, it gives me a sense of what it's like for really famous people dealing with the public, because invariably people will make some joke about my name," Trump continued. "Like if I tell someone my name on the phone they will laugh or doubt my veracity, so you know it's a famous name. Think about what all of the Michael Jordans in the country must've put up with at the height of Michael Jordan's visibility. But you know mostly it's jokes, or asking for a loan, or asking who I fired lately."
Dr. Trump says he has been aware of the presence of the other, louder Trump since the mid-'80s, and the two have communicated on and off since then. But they are not related, as far as he can tell, and the similarities end at the name.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News on Monday, he was reserved, declined to comment on politics, and, unlike the real estate mogul and television star, his life has been dedicated to improving the lives of those who find themselves facing the worst challenges of their life. Just ask Donald J. Trump.
"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," the reality star and real estate mogul said in a 2010 YouTube video.
Dr. Trump, who is highly respected in his field, specializes in genitourinary cancers, like prostate cancer, and has dedicated much of his career to researching the ways Vitamin D can be used to treat and prevent the disease. Until 2014, Trump was the CEO of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, which does cancer research and treatment.
And this year, he became chief executive of the Inova Dwight and Martha Schar Cancer Institute in Virginia, where he will lead an effort to develop improvements in cancer treatments through genomic research and testing.
His work as an oncologist was also what led to the convergence of his path with that of the more famous Donald Trump.
Donald J. Trump opted to participate in a 2010 event, called "Bald for Bucks," which raises money to fight cancer. The program was started more than a decade ago by a local high schooler who wanted show support for her sister who was battling cancer.
"I've been hearing your name for years and years. It's been a little bit confusing, but believe it or not, what you do in life is more important than what I do in life," Donald J. Trump stated in the video. "So I say Donald L. Trump, which is you, is probably more important than Donald J. Trump, which is me. I just want to congratulate you on the great work you've done. The shaving the head thing, and the shaving the face and everything that you're doing... Donald, I really — I'm glad it's you and it's not me."
Donald L. Trump said Donald J. Trump agreed to do the video because a friend of his had sought treatment at Roswell Park Cancer Institute for his son. The video led to the two Donald Trumps meeting for the first time.
"He demurred on actually shaving his head, but did make the video and congratulated us on our campaign," said Donald L. Trump. "A few months later I had the opportunity to go to New York City, and I stopped and said hello to him, and thanked him for his support, and that was the last time I'd interacted or heard from him."
Now Donald J. Trump is leading many Republican polls and dominating the news cycle. Dr. Trump said it would be "fair hypothesis" that this is most press Trump has ever gotten.
Dr. Trump wouldn't comment on the other Trump's politics — he's a doctor, not a talking head — but he pointed out the name was in his family first.
"I'm a medical oncologist not a political commentator, so I have nothing to say particularly about his path to the presidency," Trump said. "Although his visibility, popularity, notoriety is increasingly involved in commentary by my friends and colleagues about the commonness of our names, which I would hasten to point out my dad had first. I was Donald Trump, named after my father Donald Trump, so this side of the Trump relation had it well before Donald J. Trump."
Donald L. Trump says some of his friends, "folks who might have political views distinct from Mr. Trump," have suggested he change his name. He says people sometimes doubt his name on the phone or laugh.
While Dr. Trump has never stayed in a Trump hotel, he has eaten at a Trump restaurant. He paid with a credit card. No one noticed.
"What Shakespeare said was 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,'" Trump said when asked if he felt annoyed by the ever-present controversy around Donald J. Trump. "I don't — you know, there's lots of things going on, you know those names, what we were named many years ago, and it is what it is."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at email@example.com.
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
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