I am a primary care pediatrician. I am one of the thousands who serve our youngest and most vulnerable each day. Any pediatrician will tell you we are the underdogs of the medical hierarchy. But for me, it’s still the best calling on Earth.
When I walk into an exam room, you will see my eyes lit up, my eyes bright, a happy lilt to my voice. You will sense the love I feel for your child, even if we are meeting for the first time. From the moment I see your child’s name on my schedule, you become a part of my flock, and I will care for your family with all the skills a seasoned physician brings.
After many years in practice, I can tell you why we choose this field when so many other routes would lead to better financial incentives, more respect, higher (supposed) glory. You see, it’s not about runny noses or ear infections. It’s about love. It’s about gaining trust in an instant, yours and your child’s, so that I can quickly and effectively push beneath the surface to the heart of the matter. It’s about nuance—the quirk of an eyebrow, the subtle shifting in your seat, a glance exchanged. It’s about intuition and hard-earned confidence. Even as I tickle tiny toes and blow raspberries on pudgy bellies, I am watching for these subtleties. I am keeping vigil for the proverbial wolf at the door of your happy home, anticipating pitfalls and sniffing out disease before you even know they are there. I am listening for your love stories, the heart of a pediatrician’s practice.
I will fall for your children and, because I am privileged to do so, I will fight for you. I will be your voice. I will exhaust myself in your honor.
Pediatricians, the perpetual underdogs of the medical field, the chronically undervalued, the frightfully non-confrontational, are the grown-up versions of the peacekeepers on the school playground, the “nice kids,” the humble worker bees. We are in every underserved, underpaid, underrepresented corner of the world. We run in when most everyone else runs out. We sigh when parents quote misleading medical information at us from the internet and turn the other cheek when conspiracy theorists blast us with their anti-vaccine rhetoric. We expose ourselves to every frightening illness imaginable. We take your children into our arms, whether they are healthfully cooing or crawling with germs. We risk our own families’ health when we bring these germs home with us. We work when we are sick, when our own kids need us, when we ourselves are broken or battered. We put ourselves in harm’s way by taking a stand for a child’s safety, and we lose sleep as we pray our advocacy will be enough. We hold your hand as we give unsettling news and weep bitter private tears over our own inadequacies when we cannot fix it. We rejoice and cry right along with you. We push, and we demand, and we never, ever give up because we are the lucky ones: we have someone worth fighting for.
I am a pediatrician. I deal with love stories and nuances for a living. I may be employed, but I can never be owned or replicated. I laugh and cry with the families I serve every day, sharing in the best and worst that life has to offer. I serve up vaccines and amoxicillin with a heaping side of hope and humanity. I am nobody’s underdog. And I wear my heart on my sleeve for the love of my patients.
Quinn Bensi is a pediatrician who blogs at Opening Up with Quinn Bensi.
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