Why a Pediatrician?
I was recently asked, “Why? Why a Pediatrician? Why a doctor?”
I responded with my usual answer which is that during my third year of medical school when exposed to a variety of career options, I came home the happiest everyday of my pediatric rotation. During other rotations, on bad nights I would go to the nursery and just hold, rock or feed a newborn to regain the strength to get through the night. The truth is that I often forget now, 10 years into medicine, that medicine not just pediatrics was a choice and my quick answer misses a lot of what I love about my job.
My oldest brother once quoted theologian Frederick Buechner to me, saying “a vocation is where your greatest joys meet the world’s greatest need.” I realized sometime in college that I had a gift for listening and loved learning about people’s lives. I also realized that many people don’t have someone to listen to them. During my third or fourth year of college I read a story that struck me by Anton Chekhov entitled “Misery: To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief.” It is the story of an old man whose son died earlier that week. He is driving a carriage to avoid being alone and attempts to engage his passengers with the story of his son’s death and life, but is continually rebuffed by busy travelers who have no time or desire to listen. The story ends with the man talking with his horse alone in the stable about his loss.
Medicine and subsequently Pediatrics became my vocation. I love my job. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of keeping up with current recommendations and diagnosing rare serious and not serious diseases. But, mostly I just love creating relationships with kids. I love learning their personalities and what they enjoy. I like watching favorite foods change from chicken nuggets to shrimp or chicken tandoori as they grow up. I like watching their eyes as they go from being nervous to be at the doctors to amazed that this grown-up-guy keeps talking to them about their lives and health and not their parents. I love knowing that a teenager now has someone to talk to when their parents call back the next day and say “My son never says he likes anyone and he said he wants to keep going back to see you.” And, I still love holding babies. These relationships have become my passion. Listening to patients and parents is what I love about my work and has shaped the way I practice.