Dr. Rosenthal’s long career and practice of compassion began when he chose to follow his father, Dr. Morton Rosenthal, into medicine. Early on, he witnessed the true compassion that happens when a physician becomes a part of the patient’s family, a relationship he learned to appreciate while joining his father on house calls. “When I would accompany him on a house call, it didn’t end with him rendering his medical judgment. The family would invariably ask us to sit down at the table, and there’d be conversation. In other words, he was part of each family that he dealt with.”
This closeness and approachability is central to what Dr. Rosenthal, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s in Ohio, calls “relationship-centered care.” “That’s where everybody has an equal stake. It’s not me lecturing to you. I don’t think that makes for the most effective care. I think it’s relationship-centered care in which I empower the patients.” For example, Dr. Rosenthal developed a strong relationship with a five-year-old patient with retinoblastoma, who learned he could soon lose his vision. When the boy became visibly upset during one visit, Dr. Rosenthal gave his young patient a dollar with strict instructions that his mother take him for ice cream immediately following their appointment. The boy’s face lit up as he ran excitedly to his mother, and jumped into her arms with a huge smile on his face.
“He feels the worry and desperation that his patients and their parents feel when their children are not well. He does not ignore the worried parents or child, he takes the time to talk it through, to encourage and support his patients and their family members.”
This close bond between patient and physician has become a cornerstone of Dr. Rosenthal’s practice, where over and over again, patients appreciate his support and trust. “Dr. Rosenthal is always listening to me during appointments, not just to my parents. Even as a child, he made me feel like my voice mattered, like I had a say in my body,” a teenage patient says.
One patient’s mother says, “I gave birth to my first son at 19 years old. I had no family or support. I didn’t know how to trust and I didn’t know how to be a parent, as I never really had parents myself. All I knew was that I wanted different for my children. Dr. Rosenthal never judged me or looked down on me because of where I came from. He encouraged me, supported me, always treated me with respect and most of all, he believed in me when no one else did.”
His compassion isn’t limited to the examination room. Once, upon receiving MRI results that a patient of his, a nine-year-old girl, was suffering from a brain tumor, he drove to a partner facility to inform the family himself of the results. He attends funerals for patients of his who have passed away, standing as key support to families through unflinchingly hard times.
“I think it’s too easy to sort of throw in the towel and to get caught up in a negative attitude,” Dr. Rosenthal says, “And I don’t like that. I give all my energies every day to bringing positive energy and remembering why it is we chose this profession.”