Former Marine Finds His Purpose in Life in the Most Unique Way

Former Marine Finds His Purpose in Life in the Most Unique Way

Many people in life decide what they want to do with their lives and make a plan.  Often times, life itself disrupts those plans, and we end up doing something we never dreamed we would be doing.  It is almost as though something guides us in a specific direction, and we end up liking the unplanned events better than our original plan.  It is no different for Jonathan I. Lazzara, who found his real calling in life when he found out his original plans were not the direction he was meant to go.

When Lazzara went to medical school, there were two fields he was made sure he was not going to take, psychiatry and gynecology.  Lazzara said with a smile, “I couldn’t see myself wearing a corduroy jacket with leather elbows and smoking a pipe.”

The path Lazzara ended up taking was enlisting in the Marines, where his plans changed, and he was promoted up in the ranks.  After he served his country and was discharged, he took into heavy consideration his fellow Marines were falling into depression and suffering from PTSD, and others committed suicide.  It took a hold on his heart, and he quickly changed his way of thinking.

In 2018, Lazzara became a member of the staff at Atrium Medical Center.  He now works in the unit he said he would never be a part of, the Behavioral Health Unit.

The Chief Operation Officer/ Chief Nursing Officer at Atrium, Marquita Turner, told how Lazzara had deep compassion for people who suffer from mental illness, and he “hit the hospital like a storm.”  Turner is a nurse of 32 years, and she says she “never seen anyone like Lazzara, who encourages and promotes morale in his department and throughout the hospital.  He has elevated our program.”

She continued, “Lazzara’s military background in the Marines, where he was a sniper, is disjointed compared to the physician who now shows such compassion for his patients.  That’s what makes him unique and intriguing.”

Turner added, “He specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders, emotional disorders, psychotic disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance-related disorders, sexual and gender identity disorders, and adjustment disorders.”

Many would describe Lazzara’s way of handling his patients is to give them the least amount of medication, and the shortest amount of hospital stay to where they can get back to society comfortably.  His methods are proven to work.  The 43-year-old doctor stated, “This is exactly what I need to be doing.”

Lazzara recalled a conversation he had with his dad, who is also in the medical field as an emergency room physician.  He said his father told him, his “grandfather worked his butt off and hated every day in a men’s clothing store.”  This made up Lazzara’s mind to follow his own path.  He removed his stethoscope, talked to his dad, and became a psychiatrist.

As Lazzara was telling the story, he was trying to find the words looking around the conference room.  Then he said, “That’s when I knew for sure I had chosen the right field.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do and love. Making an impact in someone’s life is the most priceless thing.”

He continued, “You change lives.  You may be the only good thing that happens in their life. You get a patient who can’t function in society, and they’re depressed, and they can’t go to the grocery or the movies. But we can give them their life back as a human being.”

Inside the Atrium Behavioral Health Unit, there are ten of the thirty beds which are reserved for the worst cases of mental illness.  Lazzara said the unit is like a submarine.  A key is required to get in and out of the facility.  He also explained he is impressed at the way every department works together for the better of the patient.  Regardless of the specialty, all of the physicians talk amongst each other to discuss treatment options.  Lazzara says, “This is how it is supposed to be.”

Dr. Lazzara is right where he needs to be with his patients, and he is so down to earth, he does not wear what a typical doctor would wear when showing up at the office.  He makes his patients feel right at home by dressing casually in cargo pants and scrub tops.  He also keeps his employee badge along with several pens hanging off his United States Marine lanyard.


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