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Saturday, May 25, 2019

The kinder choice: Antibiotics editon


Believe me, I know how to put a kid in a headlock. When my oldest was 3, a positive rapid strep test sent me to the pharmacy to pick up amoxicillin. This was going to be easy, I thought. It tastes decent, the volume is small enough, and it’s only twice a day. My daughter was a precocious sort, easily engaged and reasoned with. But twice a day, for ten days, we would have a conversation that went something like this:

Me: It’s time for your medicine. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is you take your medicine and then get a spoonful of ice cream. The hard way is we put you in a headlock and force it down.
Her: Hard way.
Me: Are you sure? You didn’t really like the hard way last time.
Her: I’m sure. Hard way.

So, twice a day for ten days, my husband and/or I would put my daughter in a headlock and force the syringe of pink bubble gum-flavored antibiotic into her mouth. We would hold and she would squirm and cry and scream, and somewhere after 2 cc’s or so she would yell – Stop! I’m ready for the easy way! And then she would calmly drink the rest and have a spoonful of ice cream. We did this 20 times.

Fast-forward 6 years.  My son is 3 and now he has strep. But he’s … different. He doesn’t understand the easy/hard conversation the way his sister did. His tantrums are louder, and longer. He does not recover from them as easily, and they can ruin his entire day. My son is not officially on “the spectrum”; there’s no label to why is he how he is. We are still in the process of figuring out how his (different) (amazing) (beautiful) brain works. The journey is both frustrating and heartwarming, and there is so much unknown. But one thing is clear: the headlock isn’t working.

I text my pediatrician and ask if she will administer intramuscular bicillin. She agrees, but doesn’t have it in the office. I call around and find a compounding pharmacy 45 minutes away that has it in stock. She calls in the prescription, my husband drives out with all the kids to pick it up (I am in the hospital on service of course), and then drives back to the pediatrician, who gives my son the shot. He cries a little, and we’re done.

As a pediatric hospitalist, I spend a lot of time teaching residents about prescribing antibiotics. We talk about cultures and sensitivities, about side effect profiles. We talk about mg/kg, a lot. The residents all know that liquid clindamycin tastes gross and that augmentin ES causes less diarrhea than the original. But one thing many of them still don’t understand is why any parent in their right mind would subject their poor innocent child to an injection (a shot!) when the same medication can be given orally. What I try to teach them, to illustrate to them, is that sometimes it’s actually the kinder choice.

It’s not the right call for every kid every time. For my son, I am confident that we made the right choice, the kinder choice. But every child is different. I encourage my residents to think creatively about their patients, to use the biopsychosocial model to help guide their management decisions, to be flexible in their thought processes and to always, always show compassion.

The great thing about kids, though, is that they grow. My daughter who had strep when she was 3? Well, she’s 9 now, and she just had strep again along with her little brother. And she squirted her own amoxicillin into her mouth every time, no ice cream required.

Friday, May 10, 2019

My ideal medical practice - I opened up shop!


House call doctor tools of the trade. I have since gotten another rolling bag.

Over the last few years I have slowly been inching toward establishing my own practice. And this January, I did it, I incorporated my practice, Healthy Home Pediatrics! It is a house call based concierge, or direct primary care, practice serving Washington, DC and the surrounding Maryland and Virginia areas.




It feels so good to work hard for my own vision. For the last 5 years I have worked extremely hard for visions that were established by hospital administrators or the organizations that I worked for. Too often, these visions fell short of what I knew my colleagues and I were truly capable of and far short of what patients really wanted and needed.


During times like this, when I am venturing into the unknown, I often go back to one of my all time favorite books, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. I have read this book countless times. In it, Coelho shares the story of a young shepherd boy who leaves home and goes in search of his dreams. Along the way he is tested and experiences both profound joy and deep disappointments. One of my favorite sections of the book shares a conversation with the boy, his heart, and the alchemist:


“People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or that they’ll be unable to achieve them. We, their hearts, become fearful just thinking of loved ones who go away forever, or of moments that could have been good but weren’t, or of treasures that might have been found but were forever hidden in the sands. Because, when these things happen, we suffer terribly.”


“My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.


“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”


“Every second of the search is an encounter with God,” the boy told his heart. “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”


This is my dream. To practice medicine in the way that feels good to my heart, in a way that I know will help families and my community. To be unhindered by traditional systems such as hospital systems and clinic administrators. To collaborate directly with my patients and their families. To build sustainable relationships with families that help prevent disease and suffering. To be there for my patients when they need me.


Many thanks to KC and others for encouraging me and supporting me. A gentle nudge from her is what prompted this post. Even though it is scary, sharing such a personal detailed account on MiM, I want to share this new phase of my life because I have already received countless messages from colleagues, friends and family saying how much my business has inspired them to pursue their own dreams. I want to take you all on this new path with me. Let me know if there are particular topics about entrepreneurship and balancing work and life that you would like me to write about.


Thanks Mothers in Medicine for inspiring me!


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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

What my toddler is teaching me about growth

In the last couple of weeks, my son has been learning to identify colors. Mama and Dada are bursting with pride that he's so verbal and learning new things so quickly (he's not quite two years old). For the first few days, he would try to identify a color and be right maybe ten percent of the time. When we'd gently correct him, his little brow would furrow for a fraction of a second, and then he'd try again. He's been persistent, and now a few weeks in, he names the colors of the flowers and the cars that we see walking around our neighborhood. And he's so excited when he gets it - just bursting with pride that he's learned something new.

I have a lot to learn from my son. He is curious and eager to learn, and he doesn't give up when he struggles. He's not embarrassed to admit that he doesn't know something, and why should he be? It's all new to him, and he's learning so much! He's having fun, even when he doesn't know the answer.

In just 7 short weeks, I'll be a brand new intern, and I will struggle. I will be wrong often. I will try my best and still fall short. Obviously, the stakes are drastically different for me than they are for him. But if I can approach the next phase of my training with half of my son's enthusiasm, joy and persistence in learning, I think I'll be ok.