Doctor Learns A Lesson In Care From 6-Year-Old Dr. Pedro "Joe" Greer has been practicing medicine for more than 25 years — and he's devoted most of that time to helping Miami's poor and homeless. Greer has spoken to presidents about poverty and health care. But he says a chat with a young boy taught him a lesson about caring for people.
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Doctor Learns A Lesson In Care From 6-Year-Old

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Doctor Learns A Lesson In Care From 6-Year-Old

Doctor Learns A Lesson In Care From 6-Year-Old

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It is Friday morning, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. In recording booths across the country, people are sitting down to talk about their lives. And today we will hear from Dr. Joe Greer in Miami. He's been practicing medicine for more than 25 years and also devoted much of his time to helping Miami's homeless. Here he speaks with his wife, Janis, about how he got started.

Dr. JOE GREER: I had just started my internship, and I was in the ICU and there was a man dying of tuberculosis. He had a little wristband that had his name, and it said no address. And I knew that this man at the very least parents, maybe siblings, a spouse. And we went out to try and find his family. And what I saw was a little window into this world of poverty that existed in my backyard ,that I didn't even know was there.

And then we went out under the bridges, started seeing patients on Tuesday nights.

Ms. JANIS GREER: Well, I remember when you first came home telling me about the homeless, I was shocked because we live in a suburb. And unless you came downtown, you didn't see it.

Dr. GREER: Not at all.

Ms. GREER: It wasn't a reality.

Dr. GREER: A physician's supposed to take care of everybody. That's what medicine is. You've got to love people. You have to realize that no matter how many hours you work in the hospital, you get to go home at night. Somebody there doesn't - and that's what medicine is.

One day, I went to the clinic. It was lunchtime and it was a mother, and she had three of her kids from the Salvation Army. And her youngest son about, I guess, 6 years old, had a sweet smile. And I handed him my sandwich, and the kid took the sandwich out of the bag, unwrapped it, broke it in half, took a couple of bites, and he stuck it back in the wrapper. And I couldn't figure out why the kid was doing that.

And I asked the kid, why'd you do that? And this little boy just looked up at me and said, it's for my brother. And that was probably one of the most important lessons I ever learned - that a 6-year-old homeless child is teaching us what we're all supposed to do: Think about somebody else.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: That's Dr. Joe Greer with his wife, Janis, at StoryCorps. His interview is part of StoryCorps Historias, recording the voices of Latinos. It will be archived with all the others in this project, at the Library of Congress. And you can subscribe to the podcast at NPR.org.

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