Reflections Hear what Slotnick Fellows Have to Say

Richard Sonner, MD

Attending Physician and Director of Pediatric Emergency Services, Torrance Memorial Medical Center,

Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Fellow, 1986

Having children in middle school, high school and college makes me feel old, yet my memory of their early years is as fresh and vivid as if it were yesterday. And my children give me purpose and a feeling of youth and vigor. Similarly, thinking about being the second Slotnick Fellow as we celebrate the Fellowship’s thirtieth year makes me feel old, but my memory of that summer is as fresh and vivid as if it were yesterday. And my experience as a Slotnick Fellow still gives me purpose and a feeling of professional youth and vigor.

The first time I ever provided patient care was during my Fellowship. It was terrific for me to see the character and kindness shown by the people of the LA Free Clinic, and to benefit from the role - modeling and mentoring done by the care providers there. I still tell people about how first pelvic exams were handled at the Clinic with educational talks, plastic models, discussion of how different birth control worked and offers for a woman to feel her ovaries or to see her cervix with a mirror. 
A young female patient that summer left me a note with an inappropriate offer that 
I had to refuse. Dr. Eric Cohen used this incident in chart review in adolescent clinic to discuss how the circumstances of this teen’s life affected the way she related to people. He also used it to discuss strategies for helping her and others like her. Something that might have been laughed off elsewhere was used for my education and for patient care.

If not for the Slotnick Fellowship, my first experience providing patient care would have been in my neurosurgery rotation, where I was immediately scorned for wearing tennis shoes and then told to do a neurological exam on a brain-dead patient soon to be taken off of a ventilator. The Slotnick Fellowship demonstrated how rewarding, right and enjoyable medicine could be, and would be.

My view of health care as a right and not a privilege was nurtured at the LA Free Clinic. After doing residencies in pediatrics and emergency medicine, I now work as 
an emergency physician providing medical care for anyone in need, regardless 
of insurance status (and regardless of the type of medical need). I have never turned away a patient because of an inability to pay. But even in my day to day practice, my experience at the Clinic influences how I treat troubled youth and people with significant social needs, people in need of extra care and kindness.

I enjoyed my Slotnick Fellowship so much, I volunteered at the Clinic once a week for years afterward. I was working with people I loved, doing something that was rewarding. And we consistently went out after work, to share a meal and some time together, and more than an occasional chocolate soufflé.