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Look beyond patients' medical needs: 'Magic' Johnson

Posted On: Oct. 29, 2014 12:00 AM CST

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Former Los Angeles Lakers point guard Earvin “Magic” Johnson said health care professionals can help patients just by showing an interest in their lives.

“Please care for them and ask them that one question: ‘Anything else going on?’ What they use you for a lot of times, they can’t get at home, they can’t get from their best friend. (In) just that one moment, you may save their lives just by being a sounding board,” said the NBA Hall of Fame member who has become an entrepreneur since retiring from the NBA in 1992.

Mr. Johnson made the comments Wednesday during the closing keynote address at the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management’s annual conference.

Mr. Johnson, who publicly announced in 1991 that he is HIV-positive, attributed his ability to remain healthy since then in part to medical providers who have encouraged him and showed they cared about him personally.

Mr. Johnson also described his emotional turmoil when he learned 23 years ago that he had contracted HIV, followed by the distress of disclosing his health status to his then-pregnant wife, Cookie. Mr. Johnson said his wife’s decision to stay married after his diagnosis motivated him to take his medications and manage his condition.

“When she said to me, ‘We’re going to beat this together,’ at that moment, I knew I had a chance to live for a long time,” Mr. Johnson told the audience in Anaheim, California. “I owe my wife a lot, because I think if she had left, I don’t know if I’d be here.”

Mr. Johnson said he often meets with people who have recently been diagnosed as HIV-positive to try to encourage them. He said medical professionals are in a prime position to show a similar interest in their patients’ lives, especially those who do not have a support system.

“It’s not just the meds,” Mr. Johnson said. “You save people’s lives because you encourage them. You also uplift them.”

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