Ever wondered what its like to be a pediatrician or what it takes? Dr. Natasha Sriraman, a pediatrician, shares the inside scoop in our latest Q & A.
What is your field?
Pediatrics, Breastfeeding Medicine, Public Health
What is your title?
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
How did you decide to go into your field?
I always loved being with children. For me, when I was in clerkships during my 3rd year of medical school, I really enjoyed my OB rotation as well as my pediatric rotation. But after each delivery, while I had to stay with the mother, I found myself drawn to following the baby to the nursery/NICU. I also decided to go into Pediatrics because of the continuity of care and ability to follow a child from birth through adolescence.
How many years did you study and train? Where did you go to school and train?
After college, I received my MPH with a concentration in Health Policy and Maternal-Child Health. I was always interested in the intersection of health between mother and baby. After grad school, I attended medical school for 4 years, completed Pediatric Internship and Residency for 3 years, then completed an Academic Fellowship for 3 years. I attended St. George’s University School of Medicine, Internship/Residency at Westchester Medical Center and Fellowship at Columbia University.
What are somethings you enjoy about your chosen field?
The babies and toddlers!! I love how they smile at me, hug me when I walk into the exam room. I feel honored that mothers entrust me with the care of the most precious people in their lives. With my background in breastfeeding medicine and maternal mental health, I am able to care for the mother-baby dyad as a whole. One has to remember, that we need a happy, healthy mom for a happy, healthy baby. The continuity of care and really making a change in these children’s (as well as mom’s) lives is truly amazing.
What are somethings you wish were different about your chosen field? What are some of the challenges you face within your field? Were there obstacles you had to overcome?
I wish I had more time to spend with my patients and families, I don’t feel I should be restricted by insurance regulations and administrative barriers to limit my time with my families, especially those that may be going through some difficult situations. The level of trust my mothers impart on me is very important-we discuss regular baby care, but can deal with postpartum depression and domestic violence as well. The main challenge I see in Pediatrics, just like in other primary care fields, is that value is not placed on PREVENTIVE care. While you should not go into medicine for the money, those not involved in medicine, unfortunately, are able to dictate how primary care should be done. My personal obstacles were having to prove myself since I graduated from a Caribbean medical school. However, it forced me to work harder, longer hours and just keep going and not taking no for an answer.
What is your lifestyle like? What are your hours like? Do you take call?
I work in an outpatient academic pediatric setting. My clinical days are very busy. I see patients in the morning while teaching a 3rd year medical student. In the afternoons, unfortunately rarely have time for lunch, I see patients and precept pediatric residents. My non-clinical days, I am frequently finishing up research, writing papers, presentations and other administrative duties required of us in academia. In my current position, I solely take call by the phone. But in previous jobs, I have had to round in the hospital–but this has changed a great deal since there are now Pediatric Hospitalists. I, personally, do not chart at home as I feel that this negatively affects my lifestyle and I have made a conscious decision not to take away from my family time after I return home. But EMR (electronic medical record) while it may have some benefits, definitely has affected medicine and can contribute to physician burnout.
Is this a family friendly field? How does your work affect your family life? What adjustments if any did you have to make to achieve more work life balance?
Pediatrics is extremely family-friendly! This is another reason why I chose Pediatrics over OB-Gyn. Being married to an Intensivist, I knew that we wanted to have a family and a certain lifestyle which would not be conducive if I were to become a surgeon. While I thought about specializing throughout my residency, my mentor in residency really showed me how much I loved academics–which combines my clinical skills with teaching and research. I am fortunate to have very supportive partners, so in the case of a sick child or issue, I can get coverage if needed. As a mother, I have worked full-time, part-time and been a stay-at-home mom. For me, working part-time works best so I am there for my children and husband and I can attend school events, field trips, etc. But as a woman in medicine, it is important to realize that your career can and will change according to the stage of life you are in–and that is okay.
What advice would you give to women considering pursuing a career in your field? Would you recommend your field to them?
I truly believe that people find their specialty. I come from a family of physicians, and all of us (including my husband) practice all different specialties. When other physicians ask me how I can work with sick kids, doesn’t it make me said, I look at it as, I am keeping these children healthy and helping their mothers/families when they need it most. For me, Pediatrics is so natural–my patients come into my arms and frequently want to stay with me 🙂 Pediatrics is a wonderful field for women. The nurturing quality of the field is natural for so many of us. Depending on the specialty, pediatrics is family-friendly and flexible.
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers about your field?
If you are a medical student, keep an open mind when you are rotating through clerkships. Absorb all that you are taught, even if you think you may not like the specialty or want to pursue it. Not only may that be your only opportunity to work with that specific population, but also, you will always learn something from every specialty you rotate through.