Dr. Jonathan Santoro: A True Patient Advocate

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“There’s a lot of good to go around when you advocate for the benefit of your patients,” says Jonathan Santoro, a pediatric neurology resident at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford and the 2015 TheRightFit H.E.R.O. Honoree. “A lot of advocacy issues are related to the physician side, but I believe it is important to advocate on behalf of our patients as well. The medical industry is recognizing that good health outcomes are helpful for everyone involved, not just the patients.”

Pediatric neurology is a field that requires physicians such as Dr. Santoro who are not only highly skilled and well-trained, but who also must be adaptable and ready to accept the challenges that come with such a complex and focused specialty. “One of the biggest challenges in caring for neurologically disabled children is to make sure that these kids have access to both good primary care and specialty care, which is necessary to keeping them out of the hospital. It can be very difficult for the families of these children to follow a treatment plan if it doesn’t fit with their schedules or is overly complicated,” Santoro explains.

Dr. Santoro found that one of his biggest surprises when he began his residency was how difficult it was to communicate with the patients. “Many patients with neurological disabilities suffer from verbal delay and motor delay, so the natural instinct is to talk to the parent, maybe without even acknowledging the patient himself,” says Santoro. “But I’ve found that the more time I spend with the patients, the more connected I feel to them. I get a lot of one-on-one time with the patients and their families and I feel very lucky for that.”

Dr. Santoro recognizes that the human side of medicine is equally important as being knowledgeable about the science behind it. “There is a real importance in pediatric neurology for there to be a good patient-doctor relationship, but communicating effectively can be a big obstacle,” Dr. Santoro says.  I am working with a fellow colleague to put together a curriculum for medical students that introduces them to the language of disability, and trains them on how to communicate with patients who have communication delay and motor delay.”

Santoro’s younger brother, who is a third-year medical student, recently asked him for advice on how to choose a specialty as a resident: “We always focus on metrics and prestige, different programs have different rankings, but at the end of the day when you apply for residency you are making a decision that will affect the rest of your life. Go with your gut, do what you love – this will put you in the place where you should be.”

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Jonathan Santoro, MD is a pediatric neurology resident at Stanford. He is from Rhode Island originally, and received his medical degree from the Tulane University School of Medicine. The 2015 TheRightFit H.E.R.O. honoree is now about halfway through his residency, after which he will be board certified in neurology and pediatrics. Dr. Santoro will be speaking at the Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum this May. 

Ariel Jacoby
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