At St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Dr. Jorge Carreon’s day begins with a visit to the chapel and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
“First thing I do when I get to the hospital is ask God to help my patients, their families, and for clarity of mind to make the right decisions,” said the 70-year-old ob/gyn.
It would seem God hears his prayers. In 35 years serving the Southeast Los Angeles community, only once has Carreon witnessed the loss of a patient’s life.
And recently, the physician, who runs five to six miles a day, suffered an attack of appendicitis. But eight days after surgery, he was sitting with a visitor at his own clinic in South Gate, and answering calls regarding an international medical congress he’s helping organize in his native Peru.
At this year’s White Mass (Oct. 12, 3:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, with Archbishop José Gomez presiding), Dr. Carreon will be presented with the Catholic Doctor of the Year World of Difference Award.
“Dr. Carreon has an office without walls, he welcomes and is inclusive in his practice of maternal medicine to all women in the community, with a special affinity for the poor, marginalized and those who have no access to health care,” said Friar of the Sick Poor Brother Richard Hirbe, St. Francis hospital’s director of spiritual care and ethics. He and Daughter of Charity Sister Alicia Martin, St. Francis’ senior vice president of mission integration, nominated the physician.
Also at the White Mass, Mount St. Mary’s College’s School of Nursing will be honored with the 2014 Catholic Healthcare Service Award. Margaret Mortimore, a former Mount St. Mary’s College clinical internship coordinator who has spent 30 of her 56 years serving low income communities in Los Angeles and abroad, sees her practice as a vocation.
In her work as a pediatric early intervention physical therapist, she says she relies on “angels and Jesus” to carry out her work visiting families who are often times overwhelmed as a result of dealing with children with disabilities.
“The angels are for protection and Jesus is my brother,” she says proudly. “This is why I do it!”
Just this past week, she was pleasantly surprised to see the motor skill advances of her young patient Zion Grace, who was born at 22 weeks weighing 1.5 pounds. Now 15 months old, Zion has gained muscle strength and can sit and crawl, thanks to the therapy sessions Mortimore has provided since April.
“This is about relationships,” she said during the 45-minute session with the baby girl. “I become part of the family, and sometimes the losses are hard and painful.”
The daughter of devoutly Catholic parents keeps prayer cards as a reminder of the “mission experience that changed my life,” she said. They offer strength when she feels tired after driving throughout Los Angeles, or when she doubts her own efficacy.
Next to the two cards is one with the image of St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians.
“This is the White Mass card,” says Mortimore, who serves on the committee of the White Mass, sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Health Affairs and the Missions Doctors Association, to honor healthcare professionals for their unconditional services to the community, especially the underserved and uninsured.
“They work in difficult circumstances all year round,” said Dr. Patrick Ryan, Mission Doctors Association board member and White Mass committee member.
“Though the rewards can be great, the stress level is also very high, often not even noticed until one steps back and views the situation from a distance. So it is fitting that these workers have a day in which they are thanked, blessed, and given an opportunity to reflect together on their common mission.”
For more information about the White Mass, call (213) 637-7265 or visit www.StLukeMassLA.org.