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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Fog/Mist
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My Hero: Dr. Jeff Patterson
A physician for social responsibility
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Patterson (r.) is committed to preventing nuclear war and dealing with climate change.
Patterson (r.) is committed to preventing nuclear war and dealing with climate change.

I've known and admired Dr. Jeff Patterson for nigh on 35 years, since shortly after he joined the practitioners at Northeast Family Medical Center. He delivered my son (an endeavor, as I'm sure he'd agree, that required a doctor of stout heart), treated my mother's arthritis with a therapy for chronic pain he helped pioneer, and has seen me through difficult life passages, always listening carefully and giving me sound advice.

In addition to being a family practice physician nonpareil and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Dr. Patterson, 64, has been an outspoken advocate for nuclear disarmament. He founded the Madison chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is currently that organization's national president. He emails me:

"As a physician, I see the two major problems facing us as the prevention of nuclear war and dealing with climate change. We can and must prevent nuclear war, for even one weapon going off in the world will be a major catastrophe.... Climate change is happening, and we must do everything we can to mitigate the severity of that change. One only has to look at the climate chaos of the past few years and, indeed, of 2010 to realize that we are in serious trouble."

Dr. Patterson is also passionate about his work as medical director of the Hackett Hemwall Foundation, which does medical work in Honduras and Mexico. "I started going to Honduras about 20 years ago.... We teach, do clinical work - seeing 3,000 to 4,000 patients each year - and supply clinics and hospitals. We have helped build and furnish a rehab clinic in La Ceiba, as well as training PTs, OTs and working with their staff." The group also delivers supplies to area schools, elder folks' homes and clinics.

Dr. Patterson approaches life with humor, compassion, intelligence and patience - the eye of calm at the center of the hurricane. He embodies the medical directive of "first, do no harm," but expands it to include all people and all areas of life.

- Michana Buchman

Interested in doing a little manual labor? The next supply shipment for Honduras is being loaded at 7 a.m. on Jan. 15 behind Chet's Car Care Center, 2020 Aberg Ave.

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