Works and Days

Multiple Sclerosis Neurological Practice and Research: Johhny Mendoza, Winter Shadow 2016

Walking down the shore of Lake Michigan right before I slipped on ice. Photo Credit: Shannon Bacheller, ‘16

 I’m not one to travel. NYC had been my home for 18 years before I got accepted to Reed. Stasis breeds complacency and so I left my home. Moving to Portland would stir in me the sort of anxious energy that can be channeled productively. Even so, I wasn’t comfortable calling the place home until my last semester. I arrived with the dream of becoming a doctor. Having completed a synthetic chemistry thesis, I left more confused now than before as to what my true love was, be it medicine or chemistry. Being so infatuated with two things is a strange thing indeed.

 Though I welcomed the short break, I was eager to ease my cognitive dissonance. My next destination was Chicago, IL, where I was to shadow Dr. Daniel Wynn (’77, Biology) at his private neurology practice in the suburbs. I left NYC once more in the hopes that a wiser soul than I, a clinical researcher and neurologist at a successful multiple sclerosis center, could aid my plight. Being in a foreign town would force me to explore.

Being a traveller grants one the comfort of knowing that, when overwhelmed by the novel, home is only a ways away. After my first visit at the clinic, it was obvious Dr. Wynn was a master of his craft. He charmed his patients, talked to them like they were old friends. His patients appreciated his wit (as did I), his genuine care, and above all, his patience; he treated his patients as equals. He took his time to explain all things in detail. He consulted with his patients on all matters and left all final decisions up to them. They worked as a team. They shared the ups and downs of their treatment, the good and bad stories, their wishes and worries.

The patients and Dr. Wynn were gracious enough to share all this with me. Most were being treated for MS. Most told me their stories, each who did able to recall with precision the instance in which they first showed signs of being afflicted with MS. The clinical trials on site provided several forms of treatment at no cost, medications and hope that would not otherwise be accessible to those who needed it most. Though not cured, the patients thanked Dr. Wynn for quelling their fears, and for aiding in the fight against the progression of their disease. Dr. Wynn unabashedly stated that his patients gave him a reason to get up in the morning. With those patients who were able to continue the majority of their daily routines, he placed the success squarely on their shoulders. The patients controlled their own destiny, with Dr. Wynn acting to facilitate said destiny in whatever way possible.

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A view of a frozen lake adjacent to the neurology clinic. In the distance, a fox!

Photo Credit: Shannon Bacheller, ‘16

People came from out of state, some having driven 3+ hours in subzero temperatures to spend time with him. I felt honored to spend 4 days with him and his staff, many of whom charitably donated their time to answer my questions and just talk. On my final day, Dr. Wynn sat down with me and shared his story and thoughts on the profession, clinical research, and the business-aspect of medicine. At Reed, Dr. Wynn actually wrote two theses, including one in his junior year. This was a man with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, both then and now, who confided in me that clinical research helped quench that thirst. Through research, he was able to exchange ideas with some of the brighter minds in medicine and travel into the unknown. This notion was an epiphany. Clinical research provides a method by which to gain and share knowledge, discover externally and internally, and share with patients’ novel treatments at little to no cost.

As I was getting ready to leave, a blizzard hit NYC. My flight was cancelled. The next day, I volunteered to stay an extra day in Chicago. In exchange, I was given several things for free, chiefly a new flight home and enough travel credit for a roundtrip airplane ticket. I immediately booked a flight to Portland. Though NYC is my first and true home, I miss my new one, and cannot wait to visit a little wiser, thanks to Dr. Wynn and his staff.

Tags: winter shadow, externship, medicine, doctor, surgery, research, clinical, disease