First published in the June 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Every day for work, Dr. Matthew Lew returns to where it all began.
His office, the rare private family practice, is based on the campus of Adventist Health Glendale, where he and his siblings were all born. That practice, Lew Medical, was founded by his father, Dr. Edmund Lew, with whom Matthew Lew has partnered to lead and eventually take over the business.
By his own admission, father did not influence son, at least not deliberately, in picking family medicine as a specialty. However, it’s clear that the La Cañada Flintridge men were cut from the same cloth.
“It seems like an overused term, ‘treating the whole person,’ but in fact, my orientation to dealing with a problem really kind of takes into account all of the different issues that people would have, how they relate to it psychologically, all the different systems as they relate to one another,” Edmund Lew said in an interview this week. “It just seemed to make sense to me that if I was going to be a healer of some sort that I would have to take into account how the body works together — but separately — in its own system. Treating the whole person seemed to be the best way to help people and resolve their issues.
“Plus,” he added, “I like everything, so it was difficult to actually choose a specialty.”
Similarly, Matthew Lew found value in seeking a broad, holistic treatment of people. As an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, he took two years off to embark on a proselyting mission in Guatemala for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Matthew Lew said based on his enjoyment of helping others find spiritual awakenings, he felt he would equally relish healing of the body as well.
Family medicine it was, then.
“I love talking to people. I love meeting new people, and it’s a great way to just meet a whole different bunch of people,” Matthew Lew explained. “My patients have great and very interesting backgrounds, which is really cool, and I just love interacting with them. In medical school, I kind of liked everything” — except for delivering babies, he admitted — “so family medicine is one way to do everything. It was nice not to be restricted, like if I was in a specialty.”
Matthew Lew, a graduate of La Cañada High School, ultimately earned his bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from BYU and then earned his medical degree from American University in the Caribbean. He was chief resident of the family medicine program while completing his residency at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage.
Edmund Lew, who was raised in Silver Lake, graduated from Loyola High School and later earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of San Francisco. He then earned his medical degree from Chicago Medical School and did his three-year residency at then-Glendale Adventist Medical Center — during which his son was born at the hospital.
After he finished medical school, Matthew Lew joined his father at Lew Medical in August 2019.
“I feel like everyone’s always asking me, like, ‘How is working with dad?’ trying to get some inside scoop or good stories,” he said. “We get along really well. We see each other on the weekends, with our families. It’s kind of a boring relationship — a good relationship.”
His father chimed in, with a light chuckle: “We don’t close the doors, put on the gloves and duke it out.”
The Lews are both determined to keep alive their “unique” practice, which in spite of being located at the Adventist Health campus remains independent of the hospital and, to hear them say it, is among the few such private family practices around anymore.
“Either they’re being bought out by big groups or by hospitals, so it’s a very different dynamic,” Matthew Lew explained. “I feel like it’s rural medicine in the suburbs, because we kind of do everything. We see our patients in the hospital. We see them in the office. We see them in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, et cetera.”
“We make house calls as well,” Edmund Lew added. “Most people think, ‘who makes house calls anymore?’”
Back to Matthew Lew: “It’s a dying practice, that ‘old school medicine.’”
“There just is much to be gained with treating patients where they are and where they’re at, with whatever condition they have,” Edmund Lew elaborated. “We’re going to continue that concept because it really is the best for the patient. That approach allows us to keep patients out of emergency rooms and out of hospitals. They’re able to contact us at home early on so we can prevent them from having complications of whatever condition they have.”
Matthew Lew, now married and himself a father of three, still lives in LCF, his youngest now at La Cañada Elementary School. They live five minutes from his parents — “Five minutes including strapping them in the car,” Edmund Lew quipped — and it’s an arrangement all are pleased with. Their proximity and work arrangement allowed Edmund Lew to take a recent two-week trip to Africa, and he plans on returning the favor when Matthew Lew and his family vacation in Hawaii soon.
“It’s funny. You grow up in an area and you always want to get out and go somewhere else, right? Well, you go somewhere else, and you look back and start getting in the next phase of your life, like ‘Hey, I want to raise a family, where’s a good place to raise a family?’” Matthew Lew recalled. “A lot of people reminisce about their hometown and that’s what I did. I always had a plan of coming back and working here anyway, so it kind of worked out.”
Edmund Lew, “only” 68 and “not retiring anytime soon,” said he is nonetheless preparing his son to fully inherit the practice. He said he is influenced by his own father, who owned a dry cleaner and employed 30, when it comes to running the business and managing his employees like an extension of his own family.
Still, Matthew Lew may have to wait a while.
“With God’s help and with treating myself well — working out five days a week, trying to eat well, keeping myself in decent shape — I don’t know anything else that I would do in retirement that would be as rewarding as what I’m doing now,” Edmund Lew said. “Gardening, I can only do for a little while. Traveling, you can only do for a little while.”
Soon, their family medicine practice will add even greater emphasis on “family.” Matthew’s younger brother is currently studying to be a registered nurse and will embark on family nurse practitioner school this fall.
When he’s done there, he has a job waiting for him.