Healing a teddy bear’s tummy ache and checking the blood pressure of a brown stuffed puppy wasn’t on the class curriculum for University of South Florida medical student Jacob Wasserman. But his smile couldn’t get bigger as he helps a little girl put a child-sized bright blue stethoscope into her ears to check her bear’s heartbeat.
“What’s really funny is when I give them my stethoscope and have them check my heart. Their eyes open wide and they get all excited. They can’t believe they can actually hear something,” Wasserman says, laughing.
It’s all in a day’s work at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s annual Hospital Teddy Bear Clinic, which hosts more than 200 children from Campbell Park and Fairmount Park elementary schools, showing the kids that hospitals aren’t scary places—and that they too can dream of becoming a doctor or nurse.
A sea of children giggle everywhere you look, but Wasserman zeroes in on one quiet little girl clutching her bear tightly. He crouches down to her level. “Have you checked your teddy bear’s blood pressure?” he asks gently. She shakes her head shyly.
“Let’s make him better,” Wasserman says. Soon he is surrounded by curious kids, all offering up their own bears and puppies for a diagnosis.
“There’s no better way to remind yourself why you chose this profession,” he adds, shaking his head, slightly overwhelmed. “It sure beats sitting in the library for 12 hours, pouring through medical books. But this is it. Right here. This is why I want to be a pediatric surgeon. It’s a great reminder that it will all be worth it.”
Someday soon he’ll be using that stethoscope on children who need his help. Children whose lives will depend on him.
But for now, he’s over the moon just checking the pulses of pink teddy bears.