Dr. Ria Bardhan is a member of the MNAAP Board of Directors and co-chairs a chapter work group. Minnesota Pediatrician asked Dr. Ria Bardhan to answer our questions as this issue’s Member Spotlight. Thank you, Dr. Bardhan!
What drew you to pediatrics?
This was an interesting journey as several experiences growing up in India shaped my journey to practice pediatrics.
I grew up in the eastern part of India in a large city called Kolkata with parents who were both physicians. Volunteering in the orphanage of the Missionaries of Charity and working with Mother Teresa led me to see how children can be impacted by poverty and how love, compassion, and basic health care can transform their lives. I had a real-world lesson in economic and social disparities, and I made a decision from that point forward that I would advocate and provide care for children through the medical practice of pediatrics. All of this has shaped the person I have become.
What is a typical day like for you?
I work as a pediatrician in community practice at Allina Health in Inver Grove Heights. The day revolves around well-child checks, sick visits, and mental health concerns affecting our pediatric population which are increasing daily.
What draws me in most is helping patients and families with complex medical conditions and seeing the children through illness and through health with continuity of care. I am blessed to be practicing in a community where I get to partner with so many brilliant specialists and a healthcare organization that can provide the resources necessary for our patient population. I feel joy when I’m with my patients who are also my best teachers.
I am humbled with the opportunity and platform the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has given me through my roles as co-chair of the Mental Health and Behavioral Health Work Group, as an executive committee member, and through participation on the Executive Board. It is rewarding to work alongside many brilliant colleagues and partners who are all focused on delivering the best pediatric care for the children of Minnesota.
I am also currently completing an Executive Masters in Healthcare Administration at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. This education and experience give me a better understanding of improving healthcare delivery. My hope is to use this knowledge to improve access to healthcare and improve healthcare equity.
What is an advocacy issue (or issues) that you feel called to support?
There are many issues at the forefront of our field that I am currently passionate about. Addressing mental and behavioral health in our pediatric and adolescent population was already a major issue, and the pandemic has only accelerated this need. We knew about the rise in mental health concerns prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but to witness a “tsunami of this magnitude” affecting our kids was not something our system was not prepared to handle. It is heart-breaking to see the lives of children changed so dramatically, and crisis times make them more vulnerable despite their brave faces.
Substance abuse, eating disorders, suicidal attempts, and witnessing violence are just some of the many impacts of this pandemic that have been on the rise too. The helplessness and uncertainty families are facing alongside these children are real too. Disparities and inequities tend to worsen the impact of the pandemic. Addressing social determinants of equity, childhood hunger, and poverty are additional areas I feel passionate about.
Reducing preventable illness and taking care of complex medical conditions are areas I find myself making an impact on in order to improve the health of Minnesota’s pediatric population.
When you aren’t working, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy traveling and seeing new places and meeting new people. I enjoy exposure to new cultures and trying to bring back positive elements to my daily life in Minnesota. I also realized in the pandemic that I can keep plants alive and have grown fond of gardening flowers and vegetables during the last two summers!
What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
Hmm, this is a difficult question! I don’t think I’d call myself adventurous, but I have tried my hand at fly-fishing in Colorado and whale watching in the Atlantic. I found myself truly at one with nature and calmer during these events than I expected. I plan to see more whales in the Pacific Ocean, too, when traveling permits me to do so!