Dr. Daniel Amen forged a different path from his late father, Lou, and some of his siblings but inherited a similar drive to succeed – it just was in the medical field.
“My dad was hard. He wasn’t home. I didn’t see him much…he was just so driven that we didn’t have as much of a connection,” he said. “And then I’m one of seven, and I’m in the middle…when you have five sisters and an older brother, you get lost.”
Though he may not have seen it at the time, his position in the family hierarchy afforded him an opportunity. “The blessing is it allowed me to do what I want to do with my life,” he said.
So while his family is perhaps best known for its Super A Foods grocery chain, Daniel is one of America’s leading psychiatrists and brain health experts. He built the world’s largest database of brain scans related to behavior.
He’s also authored or co-authored nine professional book chapters, 85 scientific articles and more than 40 books, including a New York Times best seller. In addition, he has appeared on TV shows such as Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Good Morning America, among others.
“I inherited my dad’s drive and my grandfather’s kindness and ability to connect. So, my dad’s favorite word, when I was growing up was ‘BS.’ His second favorite word was ‘no’… he just said what he thought and didn’t sugar coat things.”
Daniel fondly remembered when he turned 10 and went to the work in the grocery store, sorting bottles and crates nearly every Saturday. “And I loved that. Because I would have some time with him,” he said.
Although he didn’t find a passion for grocery during childhood, his father’s work ethic was in him. And Daniel eventually found a new connection with his father years later.
At age 85, Lou Amen had been dealing with congestive heart failure and Daniel helped him get healthy through a proper diet. He also helped him lose 40 pounds and he went over to his house every Sunday and lifted weights.
“He was my best friend, besides my wife, the last five years of his life,” Daniel said. “I think both my parents were extraordinary. You know, I wish my dad would have been different, but I don’t wish I was different than I am. I think he did OK…he provided stability, predictability and a work ethic I copied. And because of that, I’m able to help a lot of people.”
“My grandfather was too nice. He wouldn’t rock the boat. But my dad’s ability to say ‘BS’ and say what he thought – even if other people didn’t like it – that’s what he gave me.”
Daniel summed up his feelings in a poem, which he shared at his father’s funeral. Titled, “Good grief…he’s everywhere in my brain,” it reflects on their relationship and closeness in later years.
“I hear him when he tells me I can do anything I put my mind to; he encouraged so many people and set us all up for success,” Daniel wrote. He also noted of his father, “He was bold, brilliant, outspoken and the essence of the American Dream.”
Click here to see The Shelby Report‘s special section celebrating Lou Amen and Super A Foods 50th anniversary.