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Celebrities enlighten students and draw support for Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics

August 2006

Hector Elizondo and Dr. Abraham Verghese
During a campus visit, Emmy Award-winning actor Hector Elizondo spoke about his successful 40-year career and his particular interest in medicine.
Two internationally known celebrities visited the Health Science Center this past spring to speak to faculty, staff and students. Their visits were sponsored by the School of Medicine’s Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics.

Patch Adams, M.D., world-renowned physician and clown, shared his feelings about loving life and people. "We are all humans. We need to take care of each other," he said.

Dr. Adams founded the Gesundheit! Institute in 1972, shortly after he graduated from medical school, as a creative response to the health care crisis in America. Begun as a home-based free clinic, Gesundheit! originated in a small house where Dr. Adams and colleagues introduced overnight stays and eventually integrated the lives of those giving and of those receiving care.

"How can anyone turn away a needy patient because the patient does not have the money to pay for care?" he questioned. Dr. Adams’ life story was portrayed on the silver screen in the 1998 movie "Patch Adams" starring actor Robin Williams.

During a separate visit, Emmy Award-winning actor Hector Elizondo spoke about his successful 40-year career and his particular interest in medicine. He discussed his role in the CBS television series "Chicago Hope." Abraham Verghese, M.D., D.Sc. (Hon.), the Marvin Forland, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Medical Ethics and the Joaquin G. Cigarroa Jr., M.D., Distinguished Chair in Medicine., who directs the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics, said that of the many roles Elizondo has played, it was his role as Dr. Phillip Watters on "Chicago Hope" that tracks most closely with the goals of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics.

"In that show, Hector played the role of a busy chief of staff of the hospital. Over time, almost every ethical dilemma we want our students to learn and think about was portrayed in that show. I felt Hector could bring home to our students in a memorable way some of the very hard decisions they will need to make in their lives as physicians," Dr. Verghese said. "It was very rewarding that he was excited about visiting with them."

Elizondo’s wife, Carolee Campbell, an Emmy-award-winning actress, photographer and book artist, said San Antonio is fortunate to have Dr. Verghese and the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics.

"Dr. Verghese is doing a brilliant job of broadening the scope of learning for medical students in San Antonio, and the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics has a world-class vision for medical ethics education."

Elizondo has appeared in more than 80 films and television shows, for which he earned five Emmy Award nominations. A few of his film credits include "Pretty Woman," "The Princess Diaries" and "Runaway Bride." He serves on the board of The Creative Coalition, a nonprofit organization which has a primary goal of retaining the arts in education as part of the core curriculum. Elizondo is currently in South America filming a movie based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ book "Lovein the Time of Cholera."





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