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Pau Gasol's visit to Children's Hospital is one example of interest in medical field

January 27, 2011 | 10:52 am

Over and over again, Lakers forward Pau Gasol found different ways to brighten the day at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Knowing the height discrepancy he carried, the 7-footer lifted children and helped them dunk on a basket. He caught alley-oop lobs from kids in wheelchairs. And he made sure to give everyone a high-five, an encouraging word and a pat on the back.

Gasol's visit Wednesday to Children's Hospital Los Angeles to promote NBA All-Star Jam Session, a fan event taking place during All-Star weekend at the L.A. Convention Center on Feb. 18-21, didn't just serve as a photo opportunity. As a former medical student at the University of Barcelona, Gasol shares a personal connection whenever he makes these frequent visits.

"There's so many kids and families that have to go through this process with surgeries and rehab," Gasol said. "As you can see today, there were some severe ones."

Gasol can relate to a degree, acknowledging "the medical background has given me a better understanding of my body" when he suffered left and right hamstring injuries last season as well as when he experienced a mildly strained left hamstring earlier in this campaign. But not all athletes grew up with parents who worked in the medical field, serves as an ambassador for UNICEF on behalf of the fight against HIV/AIDS or witness a spinal surgery.

"It was so intense and so much for me to handle at the time to see a 13-year-old girl laying there with her spine and back wide open and the team of surgeons working on the back like it's a piece of cake," Gasol said of viewing Isabelle Shattuck's surgery. "It was incredible. Her life was changing in front of my very eyes. It was something I accepted as a miracle."

--Mark Medina

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