Winning Hearts While Treating Them: An Evening with Dr. John Rodarte


by Aimee Chang

Speaking to an audience of pre-health students, Dr. John G. Rodarte provided the following advice: “Everything that you want to do, think about how you’re going to do it and then accomplish that.”

By sharing his own volunteering experiences, Rodarte, an assistant professor at USC Keck School of Medicine, encouraged students to pursue meaningful volunteering experiences at the THV sponsored event: “Winning Hearts While Treating Them: An Evening with Dr. John Rodarte.” The event was held on November 17, 2010.
Rodarte began by stating that volunteering should involve “combining your passion with your profession.”

Dr. John Rodarte, photo courtesy of USC Global Health Program

As a pediatrician and Physician Manager at Descanso Pediatrics, as well as an assistant clinical professor at the USC Keck School of Medicine, Rodarte integrates his line of work with his passion by engaging himself in several volunteer efforts.

According to Rodarte, these efforts include being an L.A. County Deputy Reserve Sheriff for several years and rescuing hikers in emergency situations as a member of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team.

Additionally, Rodarte has participated in the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer for the past two years, helping to raise $15,000 for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Furthermore, Rodarte has volunteered for the L.A. Dodgers, helping establish a pediatric home for the children of the athletes and ultimately joining the medical team.

Rodarte’s  most notable volunteer work, however, is the role he played in Healing Hearts Across Borders, “an enormous organization comprised of volunteers from universities all over the country,” Rodarte said. In 2001, Rodarte “traveled with a small group of volunteers to Tijuana, set up a small tent, and just started seeing patients.

“Little by little the team grew,” Rodarte said. “We had fifteen people – next thing you know, we had 30 people volunteering. It all spread by word of mouth”.

Rodarte described to the audience how, in the span of a few years, “Healing Hearts Across Borders has expanded considerably, transforming from a small effort into a national force.”

Besides seeing “five hundred patients a day” at the clinic, as Rodarte said, patients may now also “visit the clothing donation site,” and for the children, there is “mariachi music, face painting, games, and free music lessons.”

With his story of Healing Hearts Across Borders, Rodarte stressed to the audience “how easy it is to get involved and to make a difference in the lives of others.”

            Not only did Rodarte discuss his achievements in volunteer work, but he also described his path to volunteerism, which spanned from his high school years to his residency as a medical student.

He described his volunteer experiences, which included “running around the hospital running errands for people” in high school, working at an after-school program and teaching theatre to children in college, and volunteering at the Hopi Indian reservation and the Navajo nation reservation in medical school and during his residency, respectively.

By outlining how he came to be where he is today in the world of volunteerism, Rodarte aimed to show the audience that what he has achieved is possible for them to achieve as well.

           “The more you volunteer, the more new opportunities arise,” Rodarte said. “The key is to be open to stuff. I didn’t think too deeply. I didn’t have a direct outline.

“When you find things you enjoy doing, you really make the time.”

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