A commitment to giving back

Christopher Mattson, MD'17
Mattson (center) with his family at the Pritzker Divisional Academic Ceremony

Chances are Christopher Mattson, MD’17, will manage to seamlessly combine a career in pediatrics with a life centered on giving to others. It’s a lifestyle learned from his father, David Mattson, PhD’80, MD’82, a neurologist so committed to both career and family that Mattson doesn’t recall him ever missing one of his high school swim meets despite his busy work schedule.

Just months into his pediatric residency at the University of Chicago Medicine, Mattson is thinking about how best to give back to the Pritzker School of Medicine. He figures he will start slowly by making himself available as a resource to medical students who, like him, are interested in pediatrics and medical education.

But that pace of involvement is bound to quicken given Mattson’s years at Pritzker.  He was a highly engaged community leader who thrived on teamwork and personal relationships. His many honors and accomplishments included being a Pritzker Chief, a member of the Gold Humanism Honor Society Class of 2017, a University of Chicago Student Leader Award winner, Orientation co-chair, Revisit Weekend 2016 Committee member, and a volunteer for the Introduction to the Clinical Biennium.

He also was co-chair of Pritzker’s intramural sports team, which proudly defeated the perennial winner, the University of Chicago Law School, for the 2016 championship. Ever humble, Mattson credits his super athletic co-chair, Davy Hamilton, for leading the team to victory.

Despite his achievements, Mattson says that Pritzker’s strong community gave him far more in return. When he first arrived at medical school from Indiana, he was pleased and relieved to find a strong social network already in place for first-year students.

Later, faculty such as Barrett Fromme, MD, a UChicago pediatrician, James Woodruff, MD, associate dean of students at Pritzker, and Wei Wei Lee, MD, MPH, assistant dean of students at Pritzker, were instrumental in helping him shape a career for the long term. Other than his father, he considers these “committed and enthusiastic leaders in medical education” his role models.

By his last year, his Pritzker community had grown so tight that Mattson found it difficult to part with friends. “My last year was a pretty emotional time for me, just because I had made all these close friends who were moving to all areas of the country,” he states. Fortunately, “the DAC [Divisional Academic Ceremony] provided medical students an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with each other. I enjoyed meeting some of my very close friends’ families who I had heard so much about but never met.”

Not surprisingly, Mattson strongly encourages his Pritzker classmates to make their way back to Chicago for Alumni Weekend.

For now, he’s applying his deft interpersonal skills to his work in pediatrics. Ever since working in college at a summer camp for kids with chronic medical conditions, he makes a conscious effort to see life through the eyes of young patients and their families. He is especially empathetic to kids and their families during hospital visits.

“Appreciating and being present for people as they journey through the medical system is something I’m hoping to keep first in mind throughout my career,” he says. “It takes only a couple of minutes to sit and talk with kids about what they’re excited about, whether that’s school or what they like to do in their free time. Those are minutes well spent. They can go a long way to making kids feel a little more comfortable in what can be an uncomfortable, scary situation.”

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