For the media

Special reminders of one doctor’s impact

By The Health News Team | March 26, 2024
Dr Tommy Korn of Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group

Dr. Tommy Korn feels inspired by letters and postcards he receives from his patients.

Dr. Tommy Korn, who has been an ophthalmologist at Sharp HealthCare for 23 years, keeps his Guardian Angel pins in a special shelf at his office.

He has saved all the letters and postcards his patients wrote him ­— over 400 of them — by his desk. In times of high stress or when he’s nearing burnout, one of his mentors told him to go to the box of thank-you cards.

“When you read them,” Dr. Korn says his mentor shared, “you’ll realize why you’re here — the purpose you have and the impact and difference you can make.”

As National Doctors’ Day, celebrated on March 30 each year, approaches, it’s those letters that serve as a reminder of how meaningful the doctor-patient relationship is. “I’ll read them, and all my ails and troubles go away,” Dr. Korn says, now an ophthalmologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “That’s what inspires me.”

A family legacy

Dr. Korn's passion for medicine was ignited by observing the interactions between his father, Dr. Tom Korn, a pediatrician from Texas, and his young patients.

“Children would eagerly run up to greet my dad in our tight-knit community, whether at the grocery store, movie theater or a local restaurant,” Dr. Korn says. “My father’s passion for kindness was contagious and inspires me to this very day.”

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Korn pursued ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego and at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. He joined Sharp in 2001, dedicating his entire career to serving the greater San Diego community.

"My patients' gratitude serves as a powerful reminder of the profound bond we share," Dr. Korn says.

The first Guardian Angel award

Dr. Korn was brought to tears the first time he received a Guardian Angel award. He was treating a patient who had an infection from a contact lens cornea ulcer, and she was on the verge of losing her eyesight.

He remembers the moment so vividly that it still touches him over 20 years later, knowing that a patient who was already enduring so much would choose to express gratitude through philanthropy.

“When I get that Guardian Angel, it’s not only for me, but it’s also a tribute to the nurses, technicians, pharmacists and all my teammates who helped take care of that patient,” Dr. Korn says.

Each one a special treasure

Since joining Sharp, Dr. Korn has received hundreds of recognitions through the Guardian Angel program. The program allows grateful patients and their families to acknowledge their caregivers while giving back.

Despite the numerous recognitions, he views each as a reminder of how much he can impact the lives of his patients. “To me, each of the Guardian Angels that I’ve received is unique and special,” Dr. Korn says. “I treasure them all.”

Dr. Korn understands that his patients, whether they are new or have been treated by him for years, put their utmost faith in him to ensure they can see to the fullest and live healthier lives. Each time a patient gives back, Dr. Korn visits the special shelf filled with reminders of why he chose to become a physician.

"Philanthropy is the lifeblood of health care innovation," Dr. Korn says. "By giving back, we empower our communities and ensure our patients receive state of the art technology and the very best care."

Doctors’ Day, celebrated annually every year on March 30, serves as a way to honor the physicians who make a difference in the lives of you, your family and our community. Learn more about Doctors’ Day and the Guardian Angel program at Sharp.

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