The office looks like a playroom, a postmodern art gallery, or Google's famous beanbag setup. But it’s actually the pediatric practice of Dr. Juan Tapia, one of the doctors at Pediatrics 2000, an impressive structure in Washington Heights that cares for the youngest patients of the New York borough’s Latin American community.
"The doctor...seemed as if he were a saint."
"I decided I wanted to be a doctor the day that a dog bit me,” says Dr. Tapia. “I saw how everyone around us was looking at the doctor, and it seemed as if he were a saint, or someone spiritual, because of the way he was treating me...that had an impact on my life," he tells us.
Dr. Tapia is generous with his time and he makes room for us in his busy office schedule. We leave children and families behind in his waiting room. The little ones shoot down a slide, while the older ones rest in comfortable beanbags on the floor, or sit on the stairs. The children are relaxed and at ease, unconcerned about being in a doctor's office.
“Most children are born healthy.”
"The vast majority of our patients suffer from a lot of anxiety," reveals Dr. Tapia. "When a child gets sick, they always expect the worst. Fortunately, most children are born healthy. What they need most is a helping hand."
He knows that medicine isn't just any profession. Like other doctors on the SOMOS team, he sees medicine as an act of love and self-giving.
"I believe that medicine, unlike other professions, is an art,” he says. “A person has to have a great sense of love and compassion, because the most sensitive topic for a father or a mother is a newborn child, or their children in general."
Gratitude to his mother
Dr. Tapia credits his mother for his career: "What gives me the most strength is my mother, who, thank God, is still alive. She has always been my inspiration and she taught me to soar. She used to tell me that if you want something, if you want to achieve something, the first thing you have to do is dream and see yourself doing what you want."
"And do you dream, Doctor?" we ask. His answer is emphatic and immediate: "I dream a lot! I dream a lot, and every day when I wake up, I thank God and my mother for the education I received, for the people I was able to surround myself with and who set me on a good path."
Without spirituality, nothing has meaning
Dr. Tapia is a man of faith who believes that, "without spirituality, life has no meaning or value. We have to believe that there is something that is far beyond our control, that enlightens us, and that there is a reason for existing."
His patients are also grateful to the Divine. "Usually, before people thank us, they often thank God for finding a center dedicated to those most in need, and other times for feeling that we are helping to heal their children.”
“Medicine and art are one and the same.”
The fact that his doctor's office is daring, modern, and ready for playing is purposeful, he explains. "I had the fortune of knowing a young student, and we used to read Einstein, who said that medicine and art are one."
"Medicine and art are one and the same, and one cannot exist without the other. We believe that when you want to heal a person, the environment is very important, and the poorer the person is, the less opportunity there is to go to a medical center where they treat them with dignity, respect their culture, their beliefs, the fears they have... the places where health services are offered should be attractive, ample spaces, where children can play, since the best kind of exercise is to move. A child who comes and waits for two hours scampering around has already done part of his or her daily physical activity."
For more information, please visit: www.somoscommunitycare.org/