In one typical afternoon at his health clinic, Tim Leaman ’93, MD, treated a 9-year-old with a sexually transmitted disease, examined an HIV patient who was in tears about upcoming cancer surgery, and counseled a colleague who was overwhelmed by the needs around her.
Leaman is the site medical director at the Kensington Avenue office of the Esperanza Health Center in the economically disadvantaged neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Patients are often in “intense” situations of abject poverty, he says, lacking health insurance while struggling with substance abuse, domestic violence, and HIV-AIDS.
Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope,” Leaman explains. But it’s not the kind of wishful hope he has for the success of his Philadelphia sports teams, he laughs. It is a deep, abiding faith that comes from waiting on God.
The health center, a Christian organization, is holistic in its approach, offering spiritual, social, and emotional support as well as medical help. The center meets the needs of its patients through an interdisciplinary team that includes nutritionists, dentists, nurses, counselors, and social workers as well as family doctors like Leaman.
Leaman grew up in Philadelphia, where he saw many models of selfless Christian service, including his church-worker parents. “It’s important to me to be in a place where I can make a difference in people’s lives.”
He wasn’t always convinced, though, that he would be a physician and that he would work in his hometown. But his professors influenced him to major in biology and minor in missions. He credits the YES program of Eastern Mennonite Missions for instilling a life lesson and a critical skill that he needs in his current work – relying on God’s help and speaking Spanish.
Leaman returned to Philadelphia to study at Temple University School of Medicine. He started at Esperanza in 2001. He and his wife Jen and three children are active at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, where Tim completed 11 years as council chair last year. They live two blocks from Tim’s boyhood home.
What keeps Leaman going? “Time alone with God in the practices of solitude and prayer have helped me maintain spiritual vitality and to know God’s heart for our city and my patients,” he says. “Also, transformations in the lives of church friends, neighbors, and patients give me hope and inspiration in the midst of significant challenges.”