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Diana Londoño

Urologic Surgeon at City of Hope Glendora

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Helping Patients and Other Doctors: A Mission for Wellness

10/11/2023 06:00AM | 1350 views

Diana Londoño is concerned about your health, committed to making sure you understand your health, and  passionate about helping fellow doctors care for themselves. 

That’s a three-pronged mission that has at its core a vision for ensuring people understand and proactively manage their own wellbeing.

Dr. Londoño is a general urologist and urologic surgeon at City of Hope, one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the United States and one of the leading research centers for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.

She treats the urinary system – comprising the kidneys, ureter, bladder, prostate, genitals, and the adrenal gland (everywhere the urine passes).

While in training, urology appealed to her as a specialty because it offers a lot of variety. She treats patients ranging from age 18 to 98, including kids, women and men. She does medical treatments, preventative treatments and surgical treatments.

“It’s a joyful specialty. It’s so rewarding to get to know the patients, to get to know their families, and treat them over the long term. I used to live in Miami, and I’ve had patients fly from Miami to Southern California so I could take care of them. That's 10 years plus that I've known them.”

Dr. Londoño is also committed to ensuring people are well-versed in their own health. She produces educational articles and videos, and frequently serves as a spokesperson to explain urology in terms that people can understand in both English and Spanish.

“My mission is to provide you with compassionate care that you can understand. I like to provide care using simple language without fancy words. I don't just want to tell you what to do. I think it is important that we work together as a team.”

She is among the 10% of urologists in the United States who are women, and she’s part of the 0.5% who are both Latinx and women. . She is passionate about the field of urology and actively seeks to bring more people into the specialty.

“I have a great colleague who has a nonprofit called Urology Unbound, to increase and retain the number of urologists in our field by providing people with mentoring and other support. I mentor some of my younger colleagues. Anything we can do to give back and shine a light on the urology career path is important. Even small things like increasing awareness can make a difference. I have also coached long-term for free, younger Latina urologists as my way to pay it forward. .”

Born in Mexico City, Dr. Londoño was educated in Southern California, graduating with honors from Claremont McKenna College and earning her medical degree at UCLA. She completed her surgical internship and urology residency at Kaiser Permanente, where she trained in open, endoscopic, laparoscopic and robotic-assisted procedures.

She originally wanted to be a politician. She focused her early studies on leadership and international relations. But a very personal experience during her college years helped her see a need and an opportunity to meet it.

“My dad lived in Mexico, and I lived in the United States. I used to visit him every summer. On one of those visits, he picked me up from the airport in a wheelchair. I was surprised because he hadn’t said anything about being ill. But that’s the culture – you don’t really talk about illness. My dad died three months after that visit. He had metastatic prostate cancer very young, at 64. That’s something that is treatable today if you catch it early.”

Her experience with her father helped her appreciate the importance of maintaining dignity in sickness.

“For my dad, it was very important to him to have his cologne and have his hair combed and to look dignified in his illness. I had not been exposed to illness or death or things like that. This started my interest and path in medicine.”

So she decided to pursue medicine.

“I wanted to bring back dignity and humanity to medicine. We are very good at diagnosing, prescribing, and cutting-edge technologies and treatments. But sometimes we miss the human connection, a soul-to-soul connection, giving patients the time and space to speak about things that are important to them. I may want to do surgery, but if someone just lost a family member, if they are having a difficult time with finances, or if they're overwhelmed because of other health issues, we have to understand what's important for patients and really be a team player and not a dictator.”

She advises people to speak up and ask for what they need from their doctors: 

  • Take care of yourself. “I sleep a lot and I prioritize my sleep. I try to never miss meals. I definitely do not work through lunch.”
  • Ask questions. “Don't be afraid to ask questions, like ‘What is this medicine for? What does it mean that I have this illness? Please explain to me what's going on.’ A physician is a healer and a teacher. That's the definition. If your doctor won’t answer your questions, then find another one who will work with you and guide you throughout your journey.”
  • Change how you talk about yourself. “We are not diseases. We tend to say, ‘I am diabetic.’ Let’s switch that mindset and instead say, ‘My sugars are elevated and I'm going to work to reduce them.’ Words matter. They're very powerful.” 

This advice is not just for patients. 

Physicians Need Help With Wellness, Too

One of the reasons it can be hard to give patients that time and space is the stress that physicians face in their work and in their own lives. 

That’s why as much as Dr. Londoño  loves urology, the impact she’s most proud of is the education and advocacy work she does around physician wellness. She came to that work through her own experience with professional burnout, which she said is common among physicians.

“More than 65% of physicians are in burnout, 25%  are depressed, 13% have suicidal thoughts. These are devastating statistics because burnout affects not only the physician but their family and the lives they touch every day.”

The stakes are high.

“Patients want and need somebody who is compassionate, empathetic, kind and curious. And that's challenging to deliver if you're in burnout.”

As she pursued methods for dealing with her own burnout, she became a certified life coach and also a master of Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. She learned a lot about why burnout happens and how to treat or prevent it, and wanted to share this support with fellow physicians.

“I think there's a time in our lives when we probably wake up and the light bulb goes on like, ‘What am I here to do in this world, in this life? What can I be of service for?’ And I know in urology I am of service to my patients, but how can I truly be of service in this world in a bigger way?”

She founded Physician Coach Support, a group of volunteer physicians that use their personal development skills and life coaching certifications to provide compassionate peer support, free of charge, for any physician who needs support. 

“My own burnout was a spiritual crisis. Our mission at Physician Coach Support is to increase awareness to help physicians live a more conscious life. We provide a free and confidential platform for any physician where they can come to get help and support by a certified life coach who's also a physician.”

In 2022, Dr. Londoño received the Independent Physician Leadership Award from Los Angeles County Medical Association for this work.

She hopes that by providing peer support to doctors (or those in training), from people who know the stressors and challenges physicians face, will help individuals avoid or overcome their own burnout and be able to remain in the field fulfilling their own personal missions in treating their patients.

“We believe in hope, support, connection and the power of being there for each other.”

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