All Patients are Family for CHOC’s Mother, Daughter Physicians

Dr. Neda Zadeh has a special nickname for her mentor at CHOC Children’s: Mom.

She and her mother, Dr. Touran Zadeh, are among CHOC’s medical geneticists, working together to treat children with developmental disabilities, congenital abnormalities, birth defects and genetic disorders.

“She has been my hero for so long,” the younger Zadeh says. “I probably don’t tell her enough. I have so much admiration for her.”

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Drs. Touran Zadeh and Neda Zadeh

 

A long CHOC connection

The mother-daughter duo has worked alongside each other since 2010, when the younger Zadeh joined the CHOC genetics team full-time after completing her clinical genetics and molecular genetics fellowships at Stanford University and UCLA.

And in a way, she was coming home: As a young girl, Zadeh, who declared her dream of becoming a doctor when just in preschool, frequently accompanied her mother when she’d be called into work at CHOC on evenings and weekends.

“I always knew that I’d go and do genetics training and come back and join her practice,” the younger Zadeh says. “I grew up at CHOC. I can’t imagine working anywhere else.”

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Mother and daughter, circa 1980

Early work challenges dissolve

Though both women acknowledge that learning to work together was challenging at first, the pair today easily functions as professionals first, and mother and daughter second.

But that doesn’t stop the younger Zadeh from marveling at her mother’s expertise, and bragging that mom can often make a correct diagnosis just by looking at a patient.

And the elder Zadeh, who has been at CHOC for about 30 years, says she also learns much from her daughter, especially when it comes to technology.

“I learned a lot of new stuff from Neda because her generation is more Internet- and computer- savvy,” she says. “Also, a lot of time I consult with her, just like anybody else in our profession would.”

A common care philosophy

The two also share a patient care philosophy: “My mother told me to always treat patients as though they were your family,” the younger Zadeh recalls. “That has really stuck with me. Every time I see a patient, I think of that. I think that’s the only way it can be.”

Though families are sometimes confused by seeing physicians with a resemblance and the same name, both women believe patients benefit from being under the care of a mother-daughter duo.

“When she’s with a patient who she thinks may have something that I’ve seen before, she gets me involved,” says the elder Zadeh. “In that respect, it’s good for patients.”

The next generation

Though they work side by side, the women try to see each other socially at least once a week – especially since the younger Zadeh’s first son was born almost two years ago.

The toddler has not yet declared an interest in becoming a physician, but the younger Zadeh admits she’d be thrilled if that desire ever materialized.

“Any parent would have to be happy if their child told them they wanted to follow in their footsteps,” she says.

It’s true: Just ask her mother.

“I am so proud,” the elder Zadeh says. “When Neda got the call that she got into medical school, she was really very happy. That was her longtime goal, and it was a dream come true.”

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Give Hope this Mother’s Day by Donating Umbilical Cord Blood

This Sunday, Mother’s Day, families nationwide will honor the women who gave them the greatest gift a person can receive: life.

baby3However, many are not aware that a child’s birth can signify new life in more than one way. Birth can be a lifeline for thousands of people with diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. Umbilical cord blood, like marrow, is rich in blood-forming cells that can be used to treat many life-threatening diseases. Many patients depend on the generosity of mothers who donate their babies’ cord blood to a public cord blood bank. This way, the cord blood can become a potentially life-saving treatment option for a patient.

Cord blood donation is available for local expectant moms delivering at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. CHOC Children’s Cord Blood bank is especially in need of donated cord blood from babies whose parents are of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. For more information, contact the CHOC Children’s Cord Blood Bank at cbb-coordinators@choc.org or 714-509-4335.

There is no cost to donate to a public cord blood bank and it is completely safe for both mother and baby. Cord blood is collected immediately after a baby is born and does not interfere with labor or delivery in any way.

Donated cordbaby2 blood is listed on the Be The Match Registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), where it is made available to any patient in need of a transplant. The Be The Match Registry is the world’s largest listing of potential marrow donors and donated cord blood units. Over the past 25 years, the NMDP and Be The Match have made more than 55,000 marrow and cord blood transplants possible. Additional information can be found at BeTheMatch.org/cord.

More patients may find a suitable match outside of their families because cord blood tissue types do not need to match as closely as marrow for a successful transplant. However, patients are more likely to match someone who shares their heritage, hence the call for donations from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Cord blood is particularly useful for those patients who need a transplant performed quickly because donations are stored and readily available. Despite its potential, most cord blood is discarded. More donations mean more patients can get the transplant they need.

Nothing else that offers so much hope comes with so little effort. In honor of this Mother’s Day, expectant moms are encouraged to give the gift of hope by choosing to donate their baby’s cord blood.

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A Mother’s Perspective

Rebecca Pak, RN
Rebecca Pak, RN

In recognition of Nurses Week and Mother’s Day next week, we’d like to share the compelling story of one of our dedicated nurses, Rebecca Pak, an RN in the Endocrinology Clinic at CHOC Children’s , and how her daughter’s rare condition gave her a new perspective as a nurse, and as a mommy.

The day is crystal clear in my mind. I met my baby girl, who came to me from South Korea, and knew my life was going to be full of joy and happiness. I also knew that there would be many unknowns and many challenges with an adopted child. What I didn’t know was that this precious baby would change my career and perspective on nursing forever.

She arrived to me as a healthy 8-month-old baby. She was happy and immediately bonded to our entire family. When she reached her first birthday, I began to notice subtle things in her physical development. After working a long night shift, in May of 2010, I came home and began to get my baby changed and ready for the day. When I was getting her dressed, I noticed her breasts looked bigger than normal. I told myself “it is probably just baby fat.”  My 11 years of neonatal intensive care nursing didn’t prepare me for what was about to come.

In June 2010, I noticed my daughter’s left breast increasing in size, as well as other abnormal changes for her age. Immediately I took her to the pediatrician. She ordered labs, an X-ray of her hand to determine her bone age, and referred us to pediatric endocrinology. Her lab results were normal but her bone age was advanced, and I felt like I couldn’t see the endocrinologist quickly enough. I was filled with fear and anxiety. My entire nursing career had been focused on neonatal intensive care. You could ask me anything related to prematurity, sepsis in the newborn and high risk deliveries and I could respond…yet I knew nothing about endocrinology.

She finally had her first appointment with endocrinology, and a Leuprolide stimulation test pointed to a diagnosis of Central Precocious Puberty, a condition where the puberty process starts way too soon.  Again the feelings of anxiety, sadness, and fear for the unknown crept into my mind. Why and how could this be happening to her?

Rebecca's precious daughter, Hana, with Dr. David Gibbs, CHOC Children's Specialists Division Chief of Surgery. Hana was the first patient to have surgery in the new OR in the Bill Holmes Tower.
Rebecca’s precious daughter, Hana, with Dr. David Gibbs, CHOC Children’s Specialists Division Chief of Surgery. Hana was the first patient to have surgery in the new OR in the Bill Holmes Tower.

We started Lupron injections every 28 days to suppress her puberty. It was hard to see my daughter go through the pain of injections and endure the negative side effects, which eventually lead to the decision to place a Supprelin implant. As I began to educate myself on this condition, I became fascinated with pediatric endocrinology. Suddenly, I had the aspiration to one day perform stimulation testing and provide treatment for endocrine conditions. I wanted to help the families and children who were going through what my daughter was going through.

Serendipitously at one her appointments, I learned my daughter’s endocrinology nurse was retiring. Without delay, I applied for the position. I knew I had a lot to learn and was hoping I would be given an opportunity to use my empathy as a mom and my skills to manage very detailed needs in order to provide the most outstanding endocrine care to patients.

Almost two years later, I now work full time as an endocrinology nurse at CHOC where my daughter is treated. I have compassion for every family that walks into our clinic. I love performing the Leuprolide stimulation tests most of all, because I get to share my daughter’s story. Immediately the parents are at ease knowing I went through this same thing when my daughter was only 18 months old.

And, I continue to strive to further my knowledge within endocrinology; after all this has become my life. I have come to realize that actually living the experience has created an empathy unsurpassed; this is what has molded me to become the endocrinology nurse that I am today. I treat every patient who walks into the Endocrinology Clinic at CHOC as if he or she were my own child. I provide a personable experience that all families will never forget…..after all, I am one of those families.

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