Black History Month: Cleveland doctors are teammates in life, medicine

8:16 PM, Feb 17, 2011   |    comments
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"We're definitely a team," says Julia, a gastroenterologist. "That's one of the things that attracted me to Daryl, we had so many interests and it felt like he's my team member."

The Doctors Thornton have been teammates since they met in Seattle, where both were doing their residency and internship. She is from Solon. He is originally from San Diego.

"It's been wonderful to return to Julia's hometown," says Daryl, of their move to Cleveland about five years ago. "We've been able to take in all the activities that are available here."

Wanting to return to home and family was only part of the equation that brought this medical "team" to Northeast Ohio.

An equally substantial reason was their common interest in Medical Disparities. MetroHealth Medical Center had just co-founded a research center in that discipline with Case Western Reserve University.

"Cleveland is a natural fit because health disparities is a very big problem here," says Dr. Daryl Thornton. "My particular interests are in critical illness and patients that are in the intensive care unit. And there's not a lot of attention that's been focused on that area just yet."

Dr. Julia Gore Thornton agrees Northeast Ohio is a good place not only to research in the area, but to take steps to reduce such disparities, particularly among minorities.

"As as physician, I see personally that I can address health disparities one-on-one with patients that I see in the clinic," she tells WKYC.

"A patient will come with a complaint and have perceptions or misconceptions about a procedure that I'm recommending or a course of care that I'm interested in pursuing with them."

"Just kind of talking with the patient is a big step."

The Thorntons each credit their families for supporting their plans to become doctors, and each says they knew at an early age.

"I was in about the fourth or fifth grade when I came down with a mysterious illness," Daryl Thornton revealed. "My uncle, Manuel, who was just a medical student at the time, was able to diagnose it when other physicians couldn't."

Today Dr. Manuel Myers is a practicing physician in Los Angeles. Daryl also credits his late father, John, an electrical engineer.

"He really got me interested in science," Daryl recalls. "He used to bring things home to play with from work. He built our first television set actually from scratch. I saw him soldering and playing with wires and I just knew that was something I wanted to do eventually."

Julia Gore Thornton is equally grateful to her parents, Richard and Dorothy Gore, both retired educators who still live in the Cleveland area.

"Being an African American child growing up, having those mentors that support you every day and kind of surround you, can help you achieve anything you'd like to do," she says.

"If I can be a role model for people in the community, they'll see that it's a long road for an African American, but you can do pretty much what you like.

"It may be a difficult road, but it's achievable," says Julia, who had announced to her third grade teacher that she was going to be a doctor some day.

The Thorntons now have three children, Maya, 6, Olivia, 4, and John, who is 2. Daryl's mother Marie has moved to the area and, along with Julia's parents, the extended family forms another "team" to help balance career and family plans.

That's a great support to Julia and Daryl, who are committed to the challenge of helping improve the lives of the people of Northeast Ohio, espeically in the area of reducing medical disparities.

"I love the puzzle part of medicine, really trying to solve these complexities," Daryl Thornton says with an enthusiastic smile.

"That's what attracted me to intensive care medicine. When patients come into the ICU, it's very complex, they have a lot of things going on. And you have to put on your sleuth hat and figure out what's going on and how to attack the problems."

And as to being a married couple working in the same hospital, Julia says they don't bump into each other as often as you'd think.

"We do see each other but we do such different things that our paths don't cross multiple times a day," she explains, "but at least once a day here, our paths do cross."















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