MNAAP President and Geneticist at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital
What made you decide to go into pediatrics?
I can trace my decision to be a pediatrician to experience with an individual child. As a medical student, like many of us, I was interested in a variety of things from child psychiatry to internal medicine. I was completely hooked, however, when I experienced the opportunity to care for a little girl who had Reye’s syndrome. After having had chickenpox, she came to the emergency room in a coma, with a failing liver, and I spent the rest of the night with her, my resident and intern, her family, and our attending. When she recovered and left the hospital, I knew I had to follow a path that would let me take care of someone with such resilience.
Describe your roles at the University of Minnesota.
At the University of Minnesota I get to do lots of fun stuff. As a clinician, I have a dual role as clinical geneticist and provider of care for children with inherited metabolic disorders. I’m also the division director for the Division of Genetics and Metabolism. As such, I enjoy working with a fabulous group of faculty members to improve genetic service provision. I’m an educator who loves to share information both in formal and informal settings about genetics and inherited metabolic disorders, and I’m the medical director for the genetic counseling training program. I’m also very involved in work with our institutional review board where I serve as the chair of the executive panel.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your career? What do you find most frustrating?
The most rewarding aspect of my career has been the opportunity to get to know and care for young people from their infancy into their adulthood. It’s kind of odd to be the “old family doc” in a manner of speaking for a group of people with rare conditions, but after many years I have a wonderful knowledge of them and their progress. It’s truly rewarding.
My most frustrating experience has been dealing with irrational thinking. I know all of us believe that if we’ll just explain something clearly enough that people will make good decisions, but unfortunately this is not always the case. This is true in medical practice, and in our day-to-day lives. (I still can’t understand why people don’t understand the public health benefits of vaccination and newborn screening.)
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Although I’ve lived in Minnesota most of my adult life, I was actually born in Texas to parents who referred to going there as “going home” until their dying day despite having lived in Cincinnati, Ohio all their adult lives. I was also a pretty nerdy little kid (but I bet that is not a surprise).
What hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your spare time?
Some of you may know that I love to make jewelry in my spare time. I also enjoy painting (primarily watercolors, primarily of water). I’m also looking forward to being able to spend time with my brand new grandbaby girl.
What do you hope to accomplish during your term as president of MNAAP?
I’d like to see us build upon the momentum we have for improving the health and safety of children. From newborn screening, to speaking out on behalf of families, to being forthright about discipline for children, the AAP is the voice for children. It’s difficult to anticipate what may come up in the next two years, but I want you all to know that I’ll be there to meet the challenge.