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Published on May 29, 2012

child and doctor

My Story – How I Became A Pediatrician

I was recently at a meeting with other physicians whom I have known for several years. The facilitator of the meeting had us go around and share the story of how we chose to become physicians. It was interesting to hear the wide variety of ways we all arrived at our shared profession, from medicine being a “second career,” to being guided down this path by parents and professors. I hadn’t thought about “my story” since I wrote my essay to get into medical school.

Curiosity Turns Into Inspiration

Many physicians have parents who were physicians. In my case, my dad was a farmer and my mom stayed at home caring for my four siblings and me. However, before I was born, my mom was a nurse. My parents actually met when my dad was in the hospital and my mom was caring for him. Dad was born with a condition called spina bifida, which means his spinal cord was not completely enclosed when he was born. As a result, he had a lot of problems and was in the hospital frequently when I was growing up. It was during one of these visits that I first considered being a doctor.

I was seven years old and dad was a patient at McKennan (long before it was “Avera McKennan”). My siblings and I (all 5 of us) were visiting dad and playing in the room. I remember one of his doctors coming in to see him and making all of us leave the room. As we stood in the hallway, I remember looking at the door to his room and wondering what was happening on the other side. That was the first time I considered being a doctor.

As I got older, I loved hearing mom’s stories from her nursing days. But for some reason, I never really thought of being a nurse. Sometime in junior high, I decided to be a pediatrician. I didn’t really spend a lot of time around kids, so friends and family questioned that decision and I let myself be talked out of it. Then as a senior in high school, I enrolled in a health occupations class. I discovered I really did like medicine and committed to becoming a doctor. However, what kind of doctor?

Finding My Niche

At first I thought I would go into family medicine. The idea of caring for several generations of one family appealed to me. Plus, I could deliver babies! Who wouldn’t enjoy that? As it turns out, me. After helping to deliver my first baby, I realized I was going to have to rethink my plans. I turned my attention toward neurology. The brain is fascinating and I loved how you could do an exam and figure out where a problem is occurring in the brain. However, a week with an adult neurologist showed me that wasn’t for me either.

That is how I ended up in pediatrics. I was going to be a pediatric neurologist! Kids are fun to work with, they’re resilient, and many of the pediatric neurologic problems are treatable or get better on their own. After my first six months of residency, however, I knew that wasn’t for me either. I liked more variety in my work. Luckily, I had a wonderful general pediatrician as my mentor for my outpatient clinic throughout all three years of residency. Watching his interactions with patients and families and being able to follow some of his patients showed me the career I was looking for. Many years later, I ended up right where I had started as a teenager!

The Right Choice

Now, after being in practice for almost five years, I am certain I made the right choice. I love being able to see my patients grow and change. I can hardly believe that the babies who were my first patients will be five this fall (luckily, they won’t start kindergarten until next year. That might be as sad as my own daughter starting school!) I enjoy the relationships I have established with “my” families, and whether it’s prescribing a medication, giving advice, or just being there, nothing is as rewarding as having a parent say, “Thank you. What you did for us worked!” Although, getting a hug from my patients ranks pretty high, too!

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