A Gifted Gastroenterologist

December 15, 2014
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Gastroenterologist Rudolph A. Bedford, MD, remembers exactly when he began dreaming of becoming a physician. He was only 7 or 8, living in a poor neighborhood in the South Bronx. He was sick with a cold and as taken to a doctor named Dr. Jacobsen.

“This doctor was very kind, very professional,” Dr. Bedford recalls. “Practicing medicine struck me as something I might be interested in doing. For whatever reason, that idea stayed in my brain, and I kept pushing in that direction. It was one doctor—one pediatrician—who influenced me.”

Now Dr. Bedford influences countless others. He is a highly regarded specialized gastroenterologist at Saint John’s, known throughout the region as the expert in interventional endoscopy—a minimally

invasive procedure that involves a thin, flexible scope equipped with a camera and light used to diagnose or treat conditions of the esophagus and intestinal tract.

Today, he fondly remembers Dr. Jacobsen and credits his beloved mother for the career he cherishes. His mother worked three jobs to support Dr. Bedford and his older brother.

“She did all that she could to encourage me and ensure that I was successful,” he remembers. “She made sacrifices and even made sure I attended boarding school. I owe her everything.”

Dr. Bedford is not the kind of person who forgets to thank others. When he was in college and applying to medical school, he went back to the Bronx hospital where he was treated as a child to find Dr. Jacobsen and explain how their one encounter long ago had influenced his life. The pediatrician had retired, however, and Dr. Bedford couldn’t locate him.

“In addition to being regarded as the finest biliary endoscopist in Southern California, Rudy is one of the nicest and most decent people you will ever meet.” – Dr. Richard F. Corlin

But he never forgot him. Dr. Bedford went on to earn his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. He completed his internal medicine internship and residency at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and a gastroenterology fellowship program at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Then in 1992 Dr. Bedford was accepted to the advanced fellowship program for therapeutic endoscopy at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, where he honed the skills that have made him a renowned

specialist in his field. He spent 18 months training with Joseph E. Geenan, MD, a pioneer in therapeutic endoscopy for the treatment of ulcers, gallstones, pancreatic disease and other GI disorders. Dr. Bedford performed more than 1,500 procedures during his fellowship, becoming an expert in therapeutic endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and endoscopic ultrasound (EUS).

These advanced endoscopic tools have significantly improved treatment of many gastroenterological conditions. ERCP is a procedure to examine and treat conditions of the ducts that drain the liver and pancreas. Endoscopic ultrasound is a minimally invasive technique allowing the doctor to visualize the lining of the gastrointestinal system, esophagus, stomach and pancreas in very fine detail.

“We utilize this procedure to stage a patient’s cancer, to obtain tissue if we suspect a cancer and sometimes to help palliative patients in pain,” says Dr. Bedford, who is in his second term as president of the Southern California Society of Gastroenterology. “We can inject various pharmaceutical agents into the tumors or nerves.”

Dr. Bedford came to Saint John’s to be part of the Southern California Medical Gastroenterology Group in 2001, convinced that he would thrive in its “nurturing, family-like atmosphere.” Being able to alleviate suffering is one of the reasons he enjoys his specialty, Dr. Bedford says. But perhaps he was simply fulfilling his destiny—sort of—when he chose to treat intestinal disorders.

In high school, while still yearning to become a physician, he was given a vocation-skills test. His scores suggested he would make one terrific plumber. “I wish I were joking,” he says with a laugh.

In hindsight, becoming a physician was the perfect choice. Dr. Bedford is beloved in the community and loves his work. He recently joined the Saint John's Health Center board of trustees.

“In addition to being regarded as the finest biliary endoscopist in Southern California, Rudy is one of the nicest and most decent people you will ever meet,” says Richard F. Corlin, MD, who co-founded the Southern California Medical Gastroenterology Group. “He has a quick wit, a gentle sense of humor and a visible sincerity for his work and the people around him.”

That calm demeanor has helped him raise three boys: 16-year-old twins and a 23-year-old. Dr. Bedford, his wife—who is a judge—and their sons spend their free time traveling. Together they have seen much of the world.

While at home, Dr. Bedford enjoys working out and bicycling. He says he appreciates the relationships he’s formed while serving the Westside community.

“At Saint John’s, we see patients who want to stay within the community to receive their care,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful experience to work at Saint John’s. It has allowed me the flexibility to utilize a wide range of state-of-the-art technology and the freedom to direct the care of my patients to meet their needs.”

For more information on how you can support the gastrointestinal program, please call Susan Wilson at 310-829-8593.