Surgeon humbly stands on shoulders of single mom, sharecropper granddad

Portrait of Dr. Frederick Durden (center) with his mother Mary (left) and sister Linda Jackson at his Newnan home. Dr. Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

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Portrait of Dr. Frederick Durden (center) with his mother Mary (left) and sister Linda Jackson at his Newnan home. Dr. Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

At the end of each day, after plastic surgeon, Dr. Frederick Durden, has worked a long shift and kissed his three children goodnight, his prayer is the same: please let me be useful to others and help me honor the blessings I’ve received.

“Let me be clear,” said Durden, 44, when asked about his success. “I’m very thankful for mercy, favor, and my blessings, and I use them all for God’s glory. I find great satisfaction in knowing I woke with the intent to do a good thing and am so happy when I accomplish that. I know I’m blessed in terms of what I am, what I do, and where I come from. I recognize what everyone has done for me to be here.”

Durden refers to himself as a “Grady baby” when explaining how deep his roots run in Georgia. He was born at Grady Hospital, grew up in Atlanta, and attended both Morehouse College and Emory University.

“I had amazing role models,” said Durden. “My grandfather was a sharecropper and developed a construction business he taught that trade and business to his five sons. All but one of them had less than a high school education, but they all went on to be successful. I watched them and I learned. You get up and work; there is no excuse. I didn’t know I’d become a doctor one day, but I knew I’d be successful because I knew how to work hard, and I was surrounded by support and love.”

When he begins to say who in his life has had the most impact, his deep voice breaks.

“My mother had a traditional role at home until my dad left, then she became the head of the household,” said Durden. “I’d see her at night, reading her Bible, rocking, worrying, but she was strong and never complained. Anything I did was met with ‘I’m proud of you, baby, you get out there and get it.’”

During his time at Morehouse, he was surrounded by great men, great stories and legacies to fill the gaps from his father’s absence. That said, he bears no bitterness toward his father, whom he has not seen since his teen years. He does not judge him, he forgives him, and hopes he might reach out one day, maybe even meet his grandchildren.

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(counter clockwise from front left) Frederick "Tre" Durden (age 3) sits with his brother Isaiah (1) and sister Zoe (5) on the swing while his grandmother Mary, father Frederick, mother Tonia and aunt Linda Jackson pose for a family photo on the porch of their Newnan home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

(counter clockwise from front left)  Frederick "Tre" Durden (age 3) sits with his brother Isaiah (1) and sister Zoe (5)  on the swing while his grandmother Mary, father Frederick, mother Tonia and aunt Linda Jackson pose for a family photo on the porch of their Newnan home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

caption arrowCaption
(counter clockwise from front left) Frederick "Tre" Durden (age 3) sits with his brother Isaiah (1) and sister Zoe (5) on the swing while his grandmother Mary, father Frederick, mother Tonia and aunt Linda Jackson pose for a family photo on the porch of their Newnan home. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Durden and his high school sweetheart, Tonia, have one daughter, Zoé, age 5, and two sons, Frederick, 3, and Isaiah, 1, who is named after Durden’s grandfather, the sharecropper. In 2015, the family chose to move to Newnan, not far from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where Durden is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

“I chose CTCA because it’s different from other places,” said Durden. “They focus on both holistic medicine and traditional medicine to take care of cancer patients. The spiritual aspect really spoke to me, too. You don’t have to be afraid to pray with a patient.”

One patient Durden didn’t expect to cross paths with is his sister, Linda Jackson.

“You don’t imagine yourself ever having cancer,” said Jackson, 49, who is being treated for colorectal cancer. “I don’t know how I’d get through this process without my brother. He isn’t my doctor, but it’s a blessing that he’s there. He shares the medical side, I share the patient perspective, and we help each other. I love and appreciate him dearly. But he always says don’t thank me, thank God.”

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(left to right) Mary Durden watches her grandson Frederick "Tre" (age 3) laugh and squirm while being tickled by his father Frederick as his sister Zoe (age 5) sits with them on the porch of their Newnan home. Dr. Frederick Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

(left to right) Mary Durden watches her grandson Frederick "Tre" (age 3) laugh and squirm while being tickled by his father Frederick as his sister Zoe (age 5) sits with them on the porch of their Newnan home. Dr. Frederick Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

caption arrowCaption
(left to right) Mary Durden watches her grandson Frederick "Tre" (age 3) laugh and squirm while being tickled by his father Frederick as his sister Zoe (age 5) sits with them on the porch of their Newnan home. Dr. Frederick Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Somehow, despite his 12-hour weekday shifts and four-to-six-hour weekend shifts, Durden found time to create a cancer support group at Cornerstone Baptist Church, where he and his family attend each Sunday. As with his sister, he learns so much from the group he leads. He carries the insight with him and applies it with patients.

“I’m very thankful for all the blessings I receive, and I think it’s my responsibility to take those blessings and use them to serve others,” said Durden.

If you tell Durden’s mother that he attributes much of his success to her, she takes no credit.

“God gives him another chance every day,” said Mary Durden. “Fred believes that you give, and you shall receive. He believes in treating others how you want to be treated. I’m proud of him. He’s come a long way, though he doesn’t look at himself like that. He cuts the grass, he’s a great husband and father, always trying to do the right thing, always putting God first. We believe you pray, and God will see you through. We learned that from my mama.”

The apple doesn’t fall far in the Durden family.

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(left to right) One-year-old Isaiah Durden, his father Frederick, brother Frederick "Tre" (3), mother Tonia and sister Zoe (5) play together at their Newnan home. Dr. Frederick Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

(left to right) One-year-old Isaiah Durden, his father Frederick, brother Frederick "Tre" (3), mother Tonia and sister Zoe (5) play together at their Newnan home. Dr. Frederick Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

caption arrowCaption
(left to right) One-year-old Isaiah Durden, his father Frederick, brother Frederick "Tre" (3), mother Tonia and sister Zoe (5) play together at their Newnan home. Dr. Frederick Durden has been surrounded by great mentors since childhood and is now taking all the influence and encouragement he received and is channeling outward. He has great humility and perspective and wants to serve others as he's been served throughout his life. Despite a busy career as a plastic surgeon, he is also a devoted husband, father of three young children, and makes times to lead cancer support groups at his church (and much more). PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner