Dr. Len Cortese: Helping make a difference in his hometown
By Danielle Milley, OMA Public Affairs
Dr. Len Cortese is a world-renowned expert in his field who travels the world, but for him being able to help make a difference in the lives of his patients at home in Windsor is the best part of his job.
The psychiatrist grew up in the border city and had every intention of coming back home to practice after finishing his specialty training at the University of Western Ontario in London, but cupid had other plans.
“My plans were always to come back to where I grew up but I met my future wife there and we ended up staying in London for 20 years,” he said.
They did move back 13 years ago and Dr. Cortese has been busy making a difference in his hometown ever since – though he remains humble about his impact.
“I was able to help with what I could do,” he said. “I’ve made maybe a little bit of a difference and it feels good.”
He started by helping to set up the psychiatry program at the satellite medical school; and the hospital needed help up setting up a program for schizophrenia so he pitched in there, too – though, it was (and is now) called Wellness Program for Extended Psychosis.
“I wanted to get rid of the stigma,” he explained of the name change. For Dr. Cortese the language around mental health – or as he prefers to call it, brain health – is so important.
He also became the lead on the psychiatric hospital – the Toldo Neurobehavioural Institute.
Dr. Cortese credits support from the community and the hospital for helping make a difference for psychiatric care in the community.
Psychiatry now seems a perfect fit for the doctor, but it wasn’t always the plan. It was his Grade 7 teacher who sparked his journey in medicine and it was the last rotation during medical school that led him to his calling – his plan had been oncology.
“You could spend more time with your patients and really get to know them,” he said. “I said, ‘wow, psychiatry is what I want to do.’ I haven’t regretted a moment of it.”
While he wears many hats – teaching med students, and doing research and clinical trials – the time he spends treating his patients is the most rewarding.
The return to Windsor has also been special for Dr. Cortese’s family as his son has been able to grow up surrounded by a large extended family.
This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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