By the time he started high school, Dr. John Pope had found his calling.
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he recalls listening to his grandmother, a pediatric nurse, telling stories of her patients. His neighbor was a doctor, a father to 7 children and one of his role models. His older sister was a nurse. He enjoyed subjects like biology and physiology.
So, the decision to pursue a career in medicine was as natural as breathing.
During residency at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, he was drawn into pediatric critical care, diverting him from his original path, pediatric anesthesiology.
He joined the Akron Children’s team in 1998.
“It is challenging to work in the PICU, and yet, it’s rewarding to take care of kids who bounce back and do well,” said Dr. Pope. “I work with a great team every day. We all play a significant role in the patient’s care – doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers.”
Recently, Dr. Pope received the highest employee honor at Akron Children’s Hospital – the Distinguished Service Award.
Candidates are nominated by their peers based on their outstanding contributions in leadership, dedication and service above and beyond their job responsibilities.
“He (Dr. Pope) is a leader, makes people feel wonderful, is trustworthy as a caregiver, and goes beyond the call of caring for patients,” said hospital president and CEO Bill Considine. “He gives back and enriches lives, here in Akron and in Haiti. He is a hero, a phenomenal advocate and a special man.”
Dr. Pope attributes a lot of his success to Dr. Robert Klein. Now retired, Dr. Klein served as head of pediatric surgery and was the 2003 winner of the Distinguished Service Award.
“He was a great guy, the classic and ideal physician,” Dr. Pope said. “He was dedicated to his patients and the hospital. He had tremendous bedside manner, and he taught me how to interact with patients. He would do little things for his co-workers, like pick them up for work in his truck when there was bad weather. One of my mottos is ‘Be like Bob’.”
Giving back beyond the PICU
Since 2010, Dr. Pope has brought his compassionate, can-do spirit to Haiti, where he has traveled 5 times on medical missions to St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital with Dr. Jeff Kempf.
“We went down to work with Haitian doctors, teaching them how to use different technology, such as ventilators,” said Dr. Pope. “We then helped them place babies on the new ventilators.”
Dr. Pope continues to be amazed by what the Haitians can do with the limited resources available.
“It is extremely rewarding and overwhelming,” he said. “I get more than I give. I really learn from the doctors at St. Damien’s. It’s the hardest thing to see kids die because of poverty.”
It’s his gentle and caring manner that made Dr. Pope an obvious colleague for Dr. Kempf to take on a Haiti mission trip.
“When I had to choose someone to go on the first trip to Haiti with me, John was my first choice,” Dr. Kempf said. “He has incredible bedside skill and is a warm, compassionate person who never judges. He has a comforting effect on patients and those around him. I’ve learned a great deal from him.”
In the summertime, Dr. Pope also volunteers at Fresh Air Camp for children with respiratory issues as well as Dreamnight at the Akron Zoo, an event for children with chronic medical conditions.
When he’s not working or volunteering, Dr. Pope spends time with his wife of 31 years, Sharon, and their 2 sons, Shaun and Ryan. He’s also an ultra runner and his next goal is to complete a 100-mile run.
“I love trail running,” Dr. Pope said. “I get out into the woods and de-stress. I have completed 50K, 100K and 50-mile races. I ran a 100-mile race before, but had to stop at 62 miles. This October, I will finish.”
On and off the job, Dr. Pope has found his place.
“I want to continue what I am doing until I retire,” he said. “Akron Children’s is my home. I don’t foresee ever leaving.”
And it’s a good thing too. Dr. Pope continues to touch the lives of patients, families and coworkers every day.
One thing’s for certain – when he retires, they’ll be saying “Be like John.”