A doctor comes home
Date: June 14, 2011
Internist Panagis Galiatsatos led a series of lectures at a local Highlandtown church to educate the community about cancer symptoms, treatment and prevention. Galiatsatos grew up in Greektown near Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he practices, and he enjoys giving back as a doctor and a volunteer in the community that has always supported him.
Q: How did you first became involved with this volunteer project?
A: I was contacted by Linda Gorman, director of library services, who is involved with community outreach programs. She asked me if I would like to speak about health-related topics at local congregations. Thus far, I’ve led a series of cancer lectures at a local church in Highlandtown. They’ve been well received, drawing audiences of about 75 to 100 people.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being a volunteer?
A: I grew up in the Highlandtown/Greektown area. I was supported by this community as I went to become a doctor. Now, at this stage in my life, to give back to the community is a true blessing. To give these talks that impact the lives of people who have themselves impacted me is a great success.
Q: How did you come to practice medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview, right in your own community?
A: My first volunteer experience in a hospital was at Johns Hopkins Bayview. I was a sophomore in high school. It was a great experience and further influenced my decision to become a doctor. When I was in medical school, and I ranked my list for residency, I thought about what the medical center had meant to me in the past and realized it only made sense to continue my career in medicine here.
Q: Is there a benefit to being a hometown doctor?
A: I’ve taken on many patients from Greektown, Dundalk and Essex. When patients find out I am a true local guy, there’s an instantaneous unspoken trust that one can feel emerge. It’s a great feeling to help the community that believed in me.
Q: How has your experience changed the way you practice medicine or interact with your patients?
A: It has revealed to me that it is much better to teach than to simply treat. Medicine is grounded in science and clinical findings, spoken in a dialect that is unique and takes physicians years to master. Yes, patients wish to be treated, but they also wish to learn and prevent. If we physicians do not take the time to teach patients about their diseases, then we are simply allowing a vicious cycle to continue. Arming patients with appropriate knowledge is much better at the end of the day than a prescription.
Q: Can you share something unusual or surprising that you experienced as a volunteer?
A: What has been surprising is the warm welcome I have received from the congregation. There was one woman in her 80s who came up to me after a talk and thanked me for the insight from my last lecture. Based on advice that I had given, she decided to go to her doctor and discuss her concerns over some recent symptoms. It turned out that she did not have cancer, but she was relieved to find that out.
Q: Why was it important to you to stay here in Baltimore to practice medicine?
A: Baltimore is a part of me. The people of Baltimore are like one big family to me. Being able to help them through difficult times in their lives is a great honor that I continue to be thankful for every day.
—as told to Sara Baker