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News and Opinion Dec 4, 2019

Christensen Institute Blog: Pamela Cantor, M.D. Recounts The Relationship That Changed Her Life


In an interview for the Clayton Christensen Institute’s Who You Know site, Turnaround for Children Founder and Senior Science Advisor, Pamela Cantor, M.D., recounted an important relationship that helped her heal from childhood trauma and encouraged her to build a career dedicated to helping children across the country. The Clayton Christensen Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to improving the world through disruptive innovation.

After experiencing adversity as a child, at the age of 15, Cantor was introduced to child psychiatrist Dr. Jack Schoenholtz. She recalled how his persistent encouragement and genuine belief in her abilities gave her a sense of confidence and reassurance of her place in the world. In the 10 years they worked together, Schoenholtz and Cantor cultivated a trusting relationship. When she decided to become a doctor Schoenholtz was one of the first people she told, and true to form, he responded with an enthusiastic, “of course you are!”  She was then given her first lesson on the power of relationships. An excerpt reads:

“When you think about who I’ve been in your life,” he said, “it’s been part father, part teacher, part friend, part grandfather, part so many different things, and when children have those experiences, they identify with that person. They want to be that person.” When he said this, it made sense to me that I wanted to be him.”

Cantor adopted this approach in her practice with children and in her leadership of Turnaround, an organization which is grounded in the science of learning and development and the fact that human development rests on the primacy of the human relationship.

Read the full blog post here.