Long before I became the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, I was a poor kid in New York City and at one time, my family was homeless. Sometimes, we lived in the small apartment of my abuelita (grandma). And when I got sick, she would take me to Dr. Izquierdo.
Dr. Izquierdo was no ordinary doctor. He ran a small, low-income clinic, and whenever my abuelita paid him with her arroz con pollo (or chicken and rice) he accepted as if it were pure gold. Dr. Izquierdo treated my family with respect, compassion and a focus on health prevention, showing me how a doctor should be, decades before I saw my first patient.
The Canyon Ranch Institute, of which I am now the president, exemplifies many of the things I admired in Dr. Izquierdo. Our mission is to make Canyon Ranch’s optimal health philosophy a reality for all people. That’s why we’re offering Life Enhancement Program classes to patients of the low-income health clinics (called Urban Health Plan) that Dr. Izquierdo has founded in the South Bronx and Queens. Patients who’ve joined the program are losing weight, becoming less depressed, reducing their blood pressure and increasing their health literacy. Amazing stuff.
Sometimes life has a remarkable way of coming full circle. Personally, I’m honored to lead an organization that is helping Dr. Izquierdo and his staff care for poor children and their families, just as he so long ago cared for my family and me.