Posted: Saturday, August 2, 2014 7:00 pm |Updated: 8:40 pm, Sat Aug 2, 2014.
A sign beckoned Dr. Lily Love home.
It wasn’t a yucca plant inexplicably out of place in a New York City apartment window. Or Zia-like rays cast by sunlight on a prism in a West Coast bungalow.
It was a billboard positioned between the Albuquerque International Sunport and Love’s hometown of Santa Fe.
She passed it every time she came home from New York, New Orleans or Los Angeles to visit her mother, 81-year-old Nathalie Love.
“I always saw that billboard that said New Mexico needs doctors and nurses,” Love said. “I always felt guilty because there were more doctors in my specialty … in about one square mile in Los Angeles than there are in the entire state of New Mexico. I felt that there’s much more of a need. This is my home state. I mean, L.A. is fun, but I really connect with the patients here.”
Now Love is a surgeon practicing medicine at Southwestern Ear, Nose and Throat, which serves patients throughout Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. She’s also the co-host of a weekly radio that features alternative health practitioners.
Love, 39, graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1993. Before that, she attended Capshaw Middle School — where her interest in science was piqued — and Wood Gormley Elementary School.
“I think Santa Fe’s a wonderful place to grow up, with the culture and outdoors and food,” Love said. “When you’re in high school, you think, ‘I need to get out of this small town.’ But after living a few places, you really realize how wonderful and unique Santa Fe is and how much it has to offer.”
Love has, in fact, lived in a few places.
After high school, she attended Tulane University in New Orleans for her undergraduate studies and stayed put, graduating from the Tulane School of Medicine. Hurricane Katrina interrupted her residency in New Orleans, so she completed it at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
She was a staff physician at Cedars Sinai Medical Group in Los Angeles before returning to New Mexico in 2011. After coming home, Love practiced medicine and earned a master’s degree in business administration from The University of New Mexico to fortify her grasp of the business side of medicine.
One Thanksgiving, when she was living in New York, Love returned home for the holiday and met up with others her age who also were in town visiting family. They gathered for drinks at the Dragon Room.
There, she encountered Ezra Kortz, a guy she’d known 15 years earlier when they were both in high school. Kortz was living in New York, too.
“I was going to be on call for Christmas, and he also wasn’t coming home for Christmas,” Love recalled. “I made a joke that maybe we could set out some farolitos in Central Park and make it seem like home. We didn’t really set out any farolitos, but we started hanging out.”
Romance blossomed. They are now married with a 2-year-old daughter and a 1-year old son.
Professionally, Love has been rewarded by filling a need close to home. She sees unique circumstances, she said, such as advanced head and neck cancers, because regular doctor visits aren’t a way of life for everyone in Northern New Mexico.
And in Santa Fe, where alternative medicine has loyal adherents, she’s trying to break down barriers by tackling perceptions about traditional medicine.
“This is a place where there’s a lot of alternative or non-mainstream wellness,” she said. “Between acupuncturists, Chinese medicine, hypnotists, there are all kinds of auxiliary things that people do that aren’t just seeing their M.D. and getting a prescription or a surgery. In talking with patients, they sometimes would be reluctant to mention to me that they saw their acupuncturist or something. I really wanted to open up those dialogues.”
On KSFR 101.1 FM, Love and Santa Fe Dr. Eric Glasser host a weekly radio show that airs at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays called East/West Medicine. They host guests from the alternative medicine arena and answer questions.
Acknowledging that all forms of wellness care can work hand in hand is one of the show’s themes, and Love said she benefits from the level of candor it has brought out in her patients who also seek alternative healing.
Patients also tend to perk up when they learn Love is from Santa Fe. Often, she said, it catches them by surprise.
“I have patients who are kids, I’m going to do their tonsils or something, and I ask where they go to school. They answer, ‘Wood Gormley.’ When I tell them, ‘I went to Wood Gormley,’ they and their parents are usually like, ‘Really?’ ” Love said.
Raised by a single mother and a product of Santa Fe public schools, Love said she hopes her story will send a message, particularly to young Hispanic women like her with similar stories: You can do anything you want, do it well, and do it here.
“We really need to encourage the young people from New Mexico in general, Santa Fe especially, to go into health care,” Love said. “It’s a huge field. There’s a real need, you will always have a job. New Mexico needs doctors, and I think people who are from here and come back, we need to serve as mentors. Listen, you can do it.”
Contact Patrick Malone at 986-3017 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @pmalonenm.