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Parents Should Be One-Half Doctors

2017.12.06 21:22

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Parents Should Be One-Half Doctors

Dr. John Sangwon Lee

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Dr. John Sangwon Lee with his wife

The information deals with wide-ranging topics and, as an index on the site proves, it deals with "everything from a to z." It offers advice on how to deal with pregnancy, labor and colicky infants. It says what to do when children come down with fevers, measles and allergies. There is a chapter on emergencies, and topics include what to do and how to do if children are bitten by dogs or snakes. For parents dealing with adolescents, there are sections dealing with depression, sex education and drug abuse. And much more.
The site includes more than 6,000 pictures, depicting a range of medical conditions. There are also colorful, close-up pictures of flowers which provide a bonus, as photography is one of his hobbies.
Lee, who is from Susan, Chungnam in South Korea, stresses that his advice can help parents and their children considerably, but cannot replace the need for visits to pediatricians.
"This is not perfect," he says of his home page. "It doesn't have everything. But for what parents want to know, there is something here. This can be used for reference. But it cannot replace your own doctor's advice."
Lee, in Korean newspapers, has been referred to as "The Father of the Korean Children." A humble man, he says it is an honor to have his name mentioned in the same sentence as the late Dr. Benjamin Spock, the American who has been lauded for his work in pediatric medicine. And, like Dr. Spock, he believes that love is the foundation for all child care.
He says Koreans often have trouble expressing themselves. He says there is less tender touching and eye contact in that culture than in America.
"Children often ask, 'Do you love me?' And the parent says, 'Of course I love you.' But what many of them are doing is giving conditional love. Real love is unconditional. So a lot of people really love their children, but don't know how to show it. I say that love is essential. Everybody needs love."
Lee, a father of three, devotes a section of his book to the need for loving, nurturing relationships between parents and children.
"I cry sometimes when I write this," he says. "The tears come out. Of all things, this - love - is the most important. We must show that we really love our children."
Lee received his medical degree at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul in 1963 and served the rural healthcare and army medical corps in Korea for 5 years. He came to America in 1968 to complete an internship program at Manchester Memorial Hospital. He recalls landing on U.S. soil with $40 in his pockets. He completed his pediatric residency training at the University of Connecticut, the Yale University College of Medicine, and Norwalk Hospital.
He moved to Willimantic in 1973, the same year he became American board-certified in pediatrics. He practiced at Willimantic, Connecticut. He has cared for hundreds of thousands of children in that community - many of them poor - until his retirement in 2001. He immediately got started on his home page, and that, in essence, has become a second career.
His home page is popular, as evidenced by him receiving more than 16,000 thank-you notes from Korean parents. Most of the "hits" on his home page have come from Korea, but they also have been registered by Korean-reading parents in more than 50 countries. Still, Lee isn't satisfied.
"There are so many people out there who care about their children and want to do the right thing," he says. "Parents should be one-half doctors, but they are not. Parents must study to rear their children. They can't just depend upon letting nature do it alone."
Lee says one problem is that the people who most need his advice - the poor - don't have easy access to it. This, he says, is because many of them can't read or don't own computers. So they find it difficult to benefit from his home page. He is hoping to develop, with the help of others, an outreach program that can make his advice available even in the small, poverty-stricken villages of South Korea.
North Korea is an even more difficult challenge. "It is a most difficult problem," Lee says of the situation. "The answers are not easy."
Lee has received a large number of awards for his achievements. He was named Korean of the year in Connecticut in 2003, and has been listed among American's top physicians by a number of national organizations and publications in the United States.
He says his work is not about promoting himself. It is about promoting his home page, so that millions of Korean-speaking parents can gain critical knowledge about child care.
"I want," he says, "more than anything to help get the information they need to help their children. I am a citizen of the United States, but I want to help Koreans all over the world. What I have to offer is advice that parents can use in their everyday lives."
(Lee's photographs are available on requested.) 

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