Pediatrics is a great medical specialty. Its impact on its practitioners and on patients and their families can be long lasting. For me, the impact has been enormous. I have felt that I have a tremendous responsibility to children and their families. Parents seek medical care and trusted counsel from a respected health care provider with the following abilities—to listen, to diagnose, to provide care, to empathize, to prescribe, to recommend and to treat their patients like one of their own. While pediatricians do not use holy water in their interactions, they do invest an incredible amount of professional experience and emotional energy as they engage in a partnership with their families.
I have always marveled at how my pediatric colleagues refer to their patients as “my children.” Initially, I found that to be a bit presumptuous. Families bring their children to the pediatrician for medical care, not to cede control of them to the doctor. But now I understand the derivation of the rationale. A physician actively engaged in the medical care of their pediatric patients really does (or at least should) invest their physical, mental, and emotional energy into the care of these children. Their patients effectively become “their children.” Years later when these children grow up and have their own children, pediatricians have the real privilege of seeing and often caring for this next generation. The pride in this continuing relationship can be as palpable as the pride that pediatricians who are grandparents have in their own grandchildren.
It is in this latter spirit that my first book was written and titled “My Children’s Children”—to provide a legacy of thoughts and suggestions that could potentially have a positive and lasting impact on my children and their children. What do I mean by my children and their children? First and foremost, I meant my own two sons and now my two granddaughters. Secondly, I meant the pediatric patients that I have cared for in my 44 years of primary care pediatrics and now their children. And, finally, I meant all the children that I could possibly have an impact on through my influence as a pediatric provider and staunch child advocate in my community and beyond. I hope to positively influence these three groups to fulfill my nurturing role as a father, as a physician and as a fellow citizen. I use the title “My Children’s Children” to be inclusive for all children, in the true sense of being a pediatrician.
My books as a tribute to my mother
I’d like to think that if I am successful, I can thank my mother and pay her the ultimate tribute. The ultimate tribute for a parental job well-done is the internalization of positive values from one’s parent(s). They can make a difference in the lives of children for years to come. And I hope that is what has occurred with my books.
My mother was a remarkable woman. She was extremely dedicated to her two sons. My parents divorced when I was around 9 years of age. While we were a family of means based on the wealth of my mother’s parents, my mother had no substantive emotional support from her family and had to deal with issues of spousal alcoholism and my father’s propensity to verbal and physical abuse all on her own. Her ability to essentially strike out on her own and to empathize with, care for, and genuinely love virtually everyone she met was indeed remarkable. I believe that the values that I espouse are those of my mother. But I didn’t know it at the time.
My mother was always engaged in her community and genuinely cared for her fellow citizens and for the life of the community. My mother wrote her journal entry below in 1968 in the midst of the turbulent 1960s with the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. as the backdrop. She was called to action from the events of the day. (typos not edited out)
Dear Father in Heaven, every night as I strive for sleep, my mind accelerates to a fast pace, and then I feel I must write what I feel.
Today, as I read about the Vietnam War, and all the brave menfighting to make the world a better place to live in, the civilrights stress, and the death of the great Martin Luther King, and the tremendous rebellion’s of today’s youth, and drugs becoming an everyday nightmare – all these distressing things, plus the mad scramble for just survival and trying to conquer adversities which are with us daily – I wonder what we can do as individuals to try and make the world a much better place to live in?
This can be achieved, (and it will be a slow process), I pray, with the bettering of our own individual lives. For when one person betters himself morally, and spiritually, and emotionally, he, in turn, can influence the power of good over evil, kindness over cruelty, and love, the most important of all, over hate, bigotry, and just a general not caring at all attitude. Each kind word and act will help. The more we think of others, and how we can help them, the less selfish we become, and the more we try each day, we can’t help but bring the power of the love of God to others.
Let us work as though we were one cog in a machine that works exceptionally well, and soon we have more parts that are operating better, and eventually the entire machine is perfect. I realize that this sounds too idealistic, but the thought could be put into operation, and even though evil still exists, it would lose quite a lot of its potency, and eventually maybe even die out completely, at least brought down to a minimum.
Help me as a person, who is constantly searching for betterment in myself, to give and try daily, to do my part, at least as well as I’m able. Believing in the strength of God’s love, I feel will bring me closer to being stronger myself, and thereby maybe influencing another to do the same.
It appears that the events of Columbine were a similar call to action for me. Since 1999, I have been on a tremendous journey, suggesting ways to raise young citizens in the years after the Columbine or “the age of Columbine.” Events and powers beyond my control have beckoned me to act on behalf of others. I welcome the challenge.