Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Different Approach to Medicine: Reflections of a Physician

When Jonathan Lopez '03 goes to work, his job is far from predictable and normal. His work as a pediatric neurology resident physician allows him to care for children and teenagers with seizures, cerebral palsy, autism, brain cancer, and other debilitating health problems of the brain and nerves.

Though there is nothing more tragic than seeing a child suffer from a serious illness, Dr. Lopez finds his job at Stanford University Hospital in San Carlos, California incredibly rewarding. “Many of my patients are so full of joy despite the challenges that they must overcome. Their resilience and courage is humbling.”

During his years as a biology major at Gordon, Lopez says a “seed was planted” that would eventually grow into a controversial philosophy. During classes in the Health Professions Seminar his classmates and mentors challenged him to look at patients as fellow humans rather than as diseases, and to see himself as a fellow traveler in their journey.

This stood in direct contrast to the secular philosophy of medical school--to view the doctor-patient relationship on a strictly empathetic level. He was taught to acknowledge the patient’s pain, but maintain distance, detachment, and dominance. Lopez knew that his young patients would see right through this disingenuous approach. So instead, he makes it a point to employ sympathy rather than empathy, as this levels the playing field and opens doors in the therapeutic relationship.

Lopez says his career as a physician has humbled him and helped him understand the power of God over the human condition. He wants his patients and their families to experience God’s love through their suffering. No one can handle the emotional turmoil in caring for a sick child without the help and comfort of the Savior. “To take part in the suffering of a child is to take part in the suffering of Christ,” says Lopez. “To see a child healed is to catch a glimpse of the redemptive healing that is only possible through His selfless act upon the cross.”

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