Northern Westchester Hospital
What are some things children have told you that might surprise people?
I am consistently reminded how important it is to listen to my patients. Their assessment of their symptoms is often concise, simply expressed, to the point, and accurate. They often tell me exactly what is wrong. A child may say, “My mom thinks my stomach hurts when I eat dairy, but I think it hurts because I am nervous in school.” They are capable of breaking things down to the basics. Once, after a lengthy explanation to a patient and her mother about the benefits of receiving the HPV vaccine, the 11-year-old patient simply said to me, “Why wouldn’t I want a shot to protect myself from cancer?” I could not have said it better myself!
What made you decide to become a pediatrician?
I do not think it was from my own doctor growing up, because I was afraid of him. My mother was a nurse and was always helping injured children in the neighborhood. I have a piece of paper in my office dated the day after my 9th birthday, written in perfect script, which was clearly a class assignment. It says, “When I grow up I would like to be a pediatrician. Because I like children. I think it would be fun. And I think it would be challenging.” I keep the note in my office to use as inspiration.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing parents today?
The constant use of the internet to research parenting advice, medical issues and ailments. As parents, we can learn a great deal quickly from an internet search; however, there are many opinions posted online that are not factual. It can be very difficult for parents to navigate the difference between evidence-based advice, opinion, and pure misinformation. It is our role as pediatricians to help separate fact from fiction.
As children age, their own access to social media and the internet can distract them from healthy play and sleep. As they get older, social media can contribute to the age-old problem of peer pressure, and the more prevalent issue of cyberbullying. As pediatricians, we often remind kids and families to take time to unplug from TV, the computer, cell phones, and video games.
If you could give parents one piece of advice about raising healthy children in today’s world, what would it be?
Sometimes the best way to show your love as a parent is to say “no” to your child. Whether we are trying to help our children potty-train, get a better night’s sleep, become better eaters, exercise more, reduce screen time, or work harder in school, the best way to keep them healthy and safe is by setting limits, being consistent, and setting a good example.
Can you describe an interaction that changed how you speak with your young patients?
As my patient population has aged along with my own children, interactions with my patients and the community have changed how I interact with my adolescent patients. I have been more direct in discussing substance abuse problems with my adolescent patients, specifically the use of alcohol and marijuana, as well as vaping.
I have noticed through my patients, the media and our communities, that the use of these substances almost seems to be permitted as a rite of passage. This attitude is not okay. We, physicians and parents, need to let young people know that these substances affect the developing brain differently and can actually increase addictive potential. As a community, we need to discuss these problems, set an example for our children, and hold kids accountable for their actions to give them an excuse to say “no.” It is something we can all work on together.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your specialty or work?
The success of a relationship between pediatricians and patients is built upon the establishment of regular interaction and communication. Pediatricians watch children, families and parents grow and mature. We often get to know babysitters and grandparents. We learn medical and social histories, parenting philosophies, and fears. We learn our patients’ likes and dislikes, favorite foods, colors, sports and desired vacation destinations. We share joy in every families’ accomplishments.
For children and parents, direct and regular interaction with their pediatrician brings a certain level of satisfaction and reassurance. Someone who knows you and your family will always be able to offer the best advice and guidance. It is in this relationship with our patients that we find the love in what we do.