Meet Dr. Alyssa Saiz

CHOC wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Alyssa Saiz, a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.

Q: What is your education and training?
A: I attended Pepperdine University to complete my doctorate in clinical psychology. My clinical internship was at the University of Health Science Center San Antonio. I am currently near the completion of my two-year postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?
A: My clinical interests are working with children and teens with depression and self-harming behaviors, as well as somatic symptom and related disorders. I also am developing my specialty in pediatric neuropsychology. I love being able to help people during the most confused and vulnerable time in their life, and hope to give them a future they can thrive in.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?
A: Three years.

Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?
A: CHOC is in the process of building both an intensive outpatient program and Mental Health Inpatient Center for children and teenagers through the Mental Health Initiative. This is very exciting because the services provided by both of these programs are greatly needed in our community and will help us provide even better comprehensive and intensive mental health care.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?
A:  Somatic symptom disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you or your division at CHOC?
A:  As a department, we are growing and evolving with the community, working on research developments and supporting CHOC’s mental health initiative – all for the happiness of the population here. We are here to serve them, and working hard with them in mind each day. For me personally, I would love for people know how much of a passion this is for me – I’m here doing this work because I truly love it, and admire the courage of my patients and coworkers.

Q:  What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?
A:  The aspiration to always give more and provide better services to the children and families we work with, as well as the commitment to training the future generations of medical and mental health professionals.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?
A: I am insatiably curious and always wondering how to improve a situation. I also love to connect emotionally with people and understand their journey. So naturally, I was always drawn to psychology as an area of study and found myself looking for opportunities to work with children and teenagers who were experiencing hardship or mental health concerns.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?
A: I would be a florist or have a ranch for rescued animals. Both very different paths, but in the end they’re creating beauty to enhance someone else’s life and provide joy.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
A: I love to cook (usually anything pasta or cheese-filled) and be outside (hiking, walking my family’s dog, and being in the sun). I am also currently learning Spanish, which I am very excited about!

Q: What is the funniest thing a patient has ever told you?
A: When I told a young patient I was going to get her mom from the waiting room, she replied, “Well, she’s probably getting coffee. She can’t live without coffee!” I can relate. Kids hear and take in everything!

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.

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Meet Dr. Elisa Corrales

CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Elisa Corrales, a pediatric psychologist.

Dr. Elisa Corrales
Dr. Elisa Corrales, a pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s

Q: What is your education and training?
A: I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Davis where I majored in psychology. I earned my master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology at The University of Rochester in New York. While there, my research interests included studying factors of resilience in maltreated Latino children and identyfying patterns of neuroendocrine functioning and behaviroal outcomes in maltreated and non-maltreated populations. After graduate school, I completed both my predoctoral internship and postdoctoral fellowship at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), where I gained specialized training in parent-child interaction therapy, individual child and family therapy, and the diagnosis and treatment of children with various developmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders. At CHLA, I also completed the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilitites (LEND) Training Program and gained vast experience working with interdisciplinary teams and pediatric populations.

Q: What are your administrative appointments?
A: Currently, I am working as a pediatric psychologist in CHOC’s co-occurring clinic, which specializes in working with children who face both a chronic medical condition and mental health concerns. I recently joined one of our primary care pediatricians in a clinic focused on ensuring the safety and well-being of children and families in Orange County who have been referred to social services often for suspected child abuse or neglect. In this clinic, I provide needed mental health consultation, psychoeducation, case management and support.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?
A:  Throughout the years, I have specialized in working with children who often present with difficult or severe behavioral issues. I also specialize in treating children who have been victims of trauma or child maltreatment.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?
A:  One year.

Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?
A:  As part of CHOC’s mental health initiative, the psychology department will be starting the intensive outpatient program within the next year. This program will be dedicated to working with children who are struggling with complex issues. The aim of the program is to prevent re-hospitalization.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?
A: The majority of children I work with are often stuggling with issues of depression and/or anxiety.

Q:  What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?
A: A few years ago, my youngest child suddenly and unexpectedly became very ill and I found myself living at CHOC for approximately two weeks. It was one of the most frightening and emotionally difficult times in my life, but I was able to experience firsthand the amazing care provided by both the CHOC medical and mental health teams. Despite the fact that we were one family among many in the unit, my family was always treated with compassion and sensitivity; everyone who walked in the room was dedicated to helping my family. I am forever grateful for the support I received, and after that experience I decided that the CHOC team was without a doubt one that I wanted to join.

Q: What excites you most about CHOC’s mental health initiative?
A: I am excited that we will be able to help even more children in Orange County and provide specialized care to populations of children in critical need.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?
A:  Before I applied to graduate school, I was working as a probation officer in the Sacramento County juvenile hall. I worked with children on a daily basis who were in need of mental health treatment and not incarceration; after this experience, I was committed to working with struggling youth.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?
A:  I would love to be a chef or attend culinary school.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
A: I love dancing —salsa and cumbia are my favorite. I also love cooking.

Q: What have you learned from your patients?
A: Never underestimate resilience in children. In the face of extreme adversity, many children can succeed and will accomplish just about anything.

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.

Related posts:

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  • Mindfulness Tips for Teens
    Practicing mindfulness, or relaxation techniques can help teens build coping skills to address issues, such as anxiety disorders.
  • Meet Dr. Esther Yang
    Meet Dr. Esther Yang, a pediatric psychiatrist at CHOC Children’s,

CHOC Nurse Following in her Mother’s Footsteps

Spending her lunchtime with her young daughter Monica was something Maria Arreola always enjoyed when working her shift at CHOC Children’s Hospital. Proud of both, she looked forward to the times when Monica could join her at the hospital. And Monica enjoyed it, as well. Little did the two know then just how much of an impact those times together would have on their futures.

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Maria Arreola joined CHOC in 1981 – a dream come true. Eager to get a foot in the door, she accepted a position with the environmental services department in hopes she’d eventually land a spot as a clinical assistant (CA). Six months later, she was working as a CA in oncology.

She loved her job, and particularly enjoyed when her daughter Monica would visit her for lunch. Maria’s co-workers would frequently ask Monica what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her reply was always the same: “a nurse.”

“I saw something very special in Monica, something that told me she would be a wonderful nurse,” says Maria.

Though she didn’t tell her mom. Monica wasn’t always so sure. What she did know, however, is that CHOC was unique.

“Even at a young age, I knew CHOC was different, and I thought it was so special because it was just for kids,” recalls Monica.

The kids are what drew her mom to CHOC.

“I love working with children and their families; it’s my passion. And being at CHOC means I get to care for patients, as well as provide support to their parents. It’s wonderful to be able to make such a difference,” explains Maria.

That desire to make a difference lured Monica to follow in her mom’s footsteps. She joined CHOC in 2007 as a CA in the neurosurgical unit. At the time, Maria was working in that same unit.

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Monica grew up visiting her mom, a registered nurse at CHOC Children’s Hospital, on lunch breaks. Inspired by her mom’s work ethic and compassion for patients, she grew up to be a registered nurse at CHOC.

“Whenever we had the same shifts, I admired my mom’s work ethic and was inspired by her passion and her ability to connect with families,” says Monica.

And like her mom, Monica enjoys practicing patient-and-family-centered care.

“I love being an advocate for my patients, and a voice for those who perhaps can’t verbalize. As care providers, we need to partner with our patients and their families to really understand and meet their needs,” explains Monica.

After a few years, and with encouragement from her mom, manager and co-workers, Monica decided to become a registered nurse. She continued to work part-time as a CA while completing her education. The support from everyone was amazing, says Monica.

Most recently, she completed CHOC’s RN Residency Program.  And, to the delight of her mom and her co-workers, of whom many watched her grow up, she was hired as a registered nurse in the neurosurgical unit. Monica’s mom still works at CHOC, in the neurosurgery clinic. So, while one Arreola works with CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute patients on the inpatient side, the other gets to interact with them as outpatients.

“I am so proud of my daughter, of the human being and of the nurse she became. I also still love working at CHOC,” says Maria, who recently celebrated her 25th year. “Having my daughter part of my CHOC family, as well, is amazing.”

When Maria and Monica aren’t working, they enjoy spending time with their family, going on hikes and enjoying Maria’s cooking.

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Nurses

In honor of National Nurses Week, and as part of CHOC’s week-long celebration of our incredibly skilled and caring nursing staff, we asked several members of our nursing leadership team what advice they would offer to the next generation of nurses.

nurses
Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer

Melanie Patterson, senior vice president and chief nursing officer

Q: What advice do  you have for those pursuing their professional aspirations?

A: Recognize your strengths and spend time building on them. Don’t waste time focusing on your flaws; instead, strut your strengths! Know who you are and be that person always. Don’t beat yourself up when something doesn’t go perfectly. Sometimes, what we consider our biggest “mistakes” can make the biggest wake. Realize you make a wake, whether rough waters or not, so make that wake count. Showing your humility in the face of adversity is many times the best gift you can give another person or group.

nurses
Nancy Kraus, service line director of critical care, director of clinical education

Nancy Kraus, service line director of critical care, director of clinical education

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring nurses?

A: In any profession there are a variety of roles and responsibilities you can have throughout your career. Typically you choose “A” and think you might progress to “B” or “C.” Don’t rule out “D thru Z.” Sometimes you find what you are most passionate about by stepping outside your comfort zone. Take every opportunity that is offered to you large and small – all will become growth experiences that help you progress personally and professionally. As a young nurse just starting my career I never would have imagined I would have had the opportunity to be a bedside care provider, a college professor, a national public speaker at conferences, a global health volunteer, a peer leader with my physician partners, assist in research, lead an organization to a Magnet award of excellence, mentor others, be “the neighborhood nurse,” and now a director over critical care. All of these opportunities came because early on I decide to say “yes” when opportunities were offered to me to try something new, when someone asked for help, when I joined a group project or chose to be engaged and participate outside of my primary position.

nurses
Alisa McCormick, nurse manager, pediatric intensive care unit

Alisa McCormick, nurse manager, pediatric intensive care unit

Q: What is something you wish you would have known when you began your career?

A: I wish I would have had the advice that a friend gave me recently. The advice was to always have someone behind me that I am helping to grow and develop, and someone ahead of me that is a mentor, helping me to grow and develop. Embracing such a simple concept of balance as a new nurse would have helped me focus and develop my career much sooner. I waited over 20 years to return to school mostly out of fear. Returning to school allowed me to gain the skill and confidence to step out of my comfort zone, become a manager, participate in evidenced-based projects, lead hospital-wide initiatives, mentor and develop my staff, and most importantly support the development of a unit-based mentor program for new nurses in the PICU.

Susan See, nurse manager, neuroscience unit

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring nurses?

A: Everyone has their own unique story. It is up to you to determine what your story looks like. Whether you are early in your career or you have been in healthcare for years, there is no better time than right now to keep your passion alive and active by embracing opportunities and striving to reach new goals. Decide what is most important to you, make deliberate choices, and run full force to attain your goals. There is something magically satisfying about doing what you love. It makes you better at what you do, and best of all, you will shine that satisfaction. Thoreau said, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way”. Be uniquely you and continue to create what you want your story to look like!

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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Oncology Patient Grows Up to Become CHOC Oncology Nurse

When most adults think back to their earliest memory, they might remember a field trip in preschool or a vacation with family. But Caroline, a registered nurse in the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, remembers CHOC. She was diagnosed with cancer at age two, and spent the next two and a half years in and out of treatment.

nurse
Caroline was diagnosed with cancer at age two. Years later, after winning her battle, she returned to CHOC as a registered nurse.

“I remember the playrooms, my nurses, the child life specialists, and the friends I made in the hospital,” she recalls. “Several families got really close because of our shared experiences and regularly got together for years after we all finished treatment.”

Caroline now works alongside several of the nurses and physicians who helped her beat cancer as a young child.

Karen DeAnda, a registered nurse at CHOC, was the first one to care for Caroline after her diagnosis, and started Caroline’s very first IV.

“I do recall the day Caroline came in for the first time. She was tiny, and I was a brand new nurse,” DeAnda says. “Those initial first days when a patient is being diagnosed is very difficult on the entire family. I clearly remember the day she was diagnosed and helping her through that first evening in the hospital. It was a surreal experience to see her so many years later as a grown woman; it made my heart pound. She is truly an inspiration to our patients and families.”

nurse
Caroline was a young child when she was at CHOC fighting cancer. Today, she’s a registered nurse at CHOC standing alongside patients fighting their own cancer battles.

Caroline’s parents were at her bedside as often as they could be, but when they weren’t able to be there, her nurses stepped in.

“My nurses were the people who were always there with me when my parents couldn’t be. It was like a big family,” she says. “My mom was a huge worrier, and for her to trust my nurses was a big thing.”

Although Caroline was very young when she was diagnosed with cancer, she has a unique connection to the patients she now cares for and their families.

“Caroline’s compassion and firsthand experience is a gift to our patients and their families. Whether or not she even shares her story with her patients, the fact that she has walked that walk, regardless of her young age at the time, allows her to have immense empathy and understanding for what the entire family is experiencing,” DeAnda says.

The impact that Caroline’s care team had on her as a patient directly influenced her career path.

“I’ve always been interested in medicine,” she says. “There was never a question about what I wanted to do when I grew up; I always knew that I would become an oncology nurse at CHOC.”

For a short time during her undergraduate studies, she momentarily lost sight of that goal, and was struggling in school. At the time, CHOC was in the midst of constructing the Bill Holmes Tower, and Caroline’s dad arranged for the two of them to have a behind-the-scenes tour. One of Caroline’s primary nurses during her cancer treatment, Melanie Patterson, now the vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at CHOC, showed them the new technology and amenities that would be coming to CHOC, and it reignited Caroline’s passion.

She applied to nursing school the next day, and began volunteering in CHOC’s oncology unit, two things that made her former nurse very proud.

“I remember Caroline’s beautiful hair the day she was diagnosed. This beautiful toddler girl— my heart melted for her immediately. She was very young when she was treated, but this prepared her for the emotional, mental and physical toll of oncology nursing” Patterson says. “We have many former patients working at CHOC, and it makes my heart and soul glow knowing that CHOC nurses have impacted kids growing into adults that way.”

Once on the receiving end of the small acts of kindness from nurses — who once went out of their way to pick up Caroline’s favorite food when she was sick from treatment and wouldn’t eat—Caroline now understands the importance of going the extra mile for patients and families.

“Remembering how a mom takes her coffee in the morning, or seeing a child who is cold and bringing them a heated blanket when they didn’t even know we had those, can sometimes be the thing that changes their outlook on the whole day, and such a welcome surprise for them,” Caroline says.

Transitioning from patient to nurse did not happen without a few unexpected revelations.

“When I became a nurse, I was surprised at how much this career is a labor of love. When I was a patient, I had no idea how much work nurses did behind the scenes when I wasn’t looking,” Caroline says. “I felt like the center of their whole world. I didn’t know they had a lot of centers of their world.”

As much as Caroline enjoys caring for pediatric oncology patients the way she once was cared for, she loves even more when she gets to send them home.

“What I love most about working at CHOC is seeing patients get healthy and sending them home, where they belong,” Caroline says. “I also love seeing so many people come together for one child’s health. Seeing that happen day after day is really powerful.”

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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Cancer Patient to Caregiver

When Kim was seventeen, her life looked much like a typical teenager’s. She had a part-time job, enjoyed trips to the beach with friends, and was anxiously awaiting her senior year of high school.

But when she found herself short of breath more often than her friends were, her mom brought her to a local emergency room , just in case. She was ultimately diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

She would spend the next 26 months in and out of CHOC Children’s fighting cancer, but always with an end goal in mind: to return someday as a hematology/oncology nurse at the Hyundai Cancer Institute, which she did, ten years after her diagnosis.

“Even back then I thought that when I was better, I was going to be a nurse at CHOC,” she says. “I don’t think I chose my career; I think it chose me. Ever since I got sick, there was never an option to do anything else, anywhere else.”

Despite spending so much time in and out of the hospital while fighting cancer, Kim says she never felt like a patient, something she credits to her nurses.

“I was very involved in my care because I was fascinated by medicine,” she says. “They had protocols to follow and did everything they needed to, but I never felt like a patient. I was always Kimberly.”

Despite knowing the hospital setting from a patient’s perspective, there were a few surprises when she joined the care team.

“At the time, I didn’t realize all the behind-the-scenes work of being a nurse,” Kim says. “No matter what stressful situation had occurred to them earlier that day or just before they came into my room, it didn’t matter. As soon as they would walk into my room, it was all about me, and they were leaving their stress at the door.”

She now works alongside several physicians and nurses who cared for her when she was a patient.

“A lot of times when I see them, despite the hustle and bustle of working in a hospital, they’ll take a moment to come up to me and hug me extra tight,” Kim says.

One of her nurses, Dana Moran, lights up every time she sees Kim. The two bonded over TV shows, movies and anything else Kim had wanted to talk about when she was a patient.

“At that age, it’s easy to become discouraged and shut down emotionally, but not Kim,” Dana says. “She was scared and she was sick, but she never lost her sense of humor. She remained strong and positive for the people around her who were worried about her.”

Small acts of kindness from nurses like Dana have stuck with Kim for more than a decade.

“My mom would tell me how the nurses brought her hot coffee every morning, and how much a small gesture like that meant so much to her. So, I try to tap into the little things like that, since I know they make such a big difference to patients and families,” she said.

Kim’s pediatric oncologist, Dr. Lilibeth Torno, met Kim’s ambulance upon her initial transfer to CHOC, and they now work side by side.

“I admitted Kim when she was first diagnosed. Her mom had a bouquet of flowers which she handed over to me,” Dr. Torno recalls. “As a former patient, she truly understands, more than anyone else, what it is like to have a life-threatening diagnosis. She experienced firsthand the difficult procedures and treatment her diagnosis entailed, and it has made her an effective advocate for her patients. It is a joy and privilege to walk this difficult journey with our patients. It truly makes my work meaningful to see them move on in life.”

Kim’s time as a patient also affected her career on a very detailed level.

“Whenever I do a task, no matter how small, I can remember when that was done to me, and I think it brings a softer touch to what I do,” she says. “My whole heart is in what I do. I treat my patients’ families like they were my own.”

Celebrating important milestones for patients is an especially heartfelt part of her role as a nurse.

“As much as we love seeing our patients here, there is nothing better than being able to send patients home,” Kim says. “I remember how happy I was to be sent home at the end of a hospital stay, and I love being able to help them celebrate by singing, “Happy Last Chemo to You.”

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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A Heartfelt Thank You to All CHOC Nurses

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Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer

By Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer

Every day we are inspired by the compassionate care our nursing staff provides for patients and their families. But as we celebrate National Nurses Week, we take an extra moment to celebrate the extraordinary skill and empathy you bring to CHOC Children’s.

All of our nurses are committed to every patient and family that walks onto the campus. CHOC is grateful for the way you partner with parents as valued members of a patient’s care team. Our nursing staff cares for the entire family, and we know we cannot be successful without a strong partnership with parents. You are often tasked with walking a difficult journey alongside your patients. Thank you for understanding that often small acts of kindness make a big difference with the families that entrust us with their child’s care.

nurse

Our organization’s commitment to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children is brought to life by our world-class nursing staff. We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices you often make in order to provide the best care for kids in Orange County.

nurse

Throughout my 24 years at CHOC, I’ve been blessed to work alongside many of our outstanding nurses. Several of you first came to CHOC as an oncology patient,  and I had the privilege of being your bedside nurse. Seeing the brave way you battled cancer, and then seeing you grow up and return to CHOC as oncology nurses makes my heart and soul glow knowing that CHOC has impacted kids growing into adults that way.

nurse

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the miracles you perform every day. It’s my honor to work alongside each and every one of you.

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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Why I Love Being a CHOC Nurse

In celebration of Nurses Week, we asked a few members of our nursing staff to share what they love most about being a nurse at CHOC Children’s. Here’s what they told us:

Cassandra Maxwell, clinical nurse, hematology/oncology unit

Kendall Quick, clinical nurse, neuroscience unit

Monique Pena, clinical nurse, pediatric intensive care unit

Sheila Paris, nursing supervisor


Dana Moran, charge nurse, outpatient infusion center

Pernilla Fridolfsson, clinical nurse, PICC team

Tayler Key, clinical nurse, medical unit

Have you been inspired by a nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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Three CHOC Caretakers Shave Heads, Raise Awareness for Pediatric Cancer

Meet three members of the CHOC Children’s care team who recently shaved their heads to raise awareness and research funds for pediatric cancer.

Erika Crawford, RN, Oncology

pediatric cancer

“I used to work in Portland, Oregon as a pediatric hematology/oncology nurse and it was just part of the nursing culture there to at least participate once in this process. As the clippers were shaving my head in 2010, I found that it was a very emotional experience. I imagined the many patients I had taken care of that had experienced the same thing. At work, the patients and parents verbalized gratitude and some parents were inspired to shave their own heads for their children. I told myself then, that I would like to participate in another head shaving event once again in my lifetime.

Not only is it a great way to raise awareness and much-needed funds for pediatric cancer research, but it’s a way for nurses to participate in their patient’s journey. Our patients don’t get a choice in losing their hair (which is a very difficult thing to experience), but as a nurse we can choose to join them in a small way on their journey by choosing to experience being bald.

Even though I have been down this road before, I still struggle internally with my approaching baldness. However, those same insecurities, feelings and fears are experienced by our young patients. I think it’s important to walk with them on this journey in some way shape or form.”

Karen DeAnda, RN, CN Oncology

pediatric cancer
Inspired by the oncology patients they care for at CHOC Children’s, registered nurse Erika Crawford, charge nurse Karen DeAnda, and clinical associate Viri Harris recently shaved their heads to raise awareness and research funds for pediatric cancer.

“When I first met Erika, she had a cute bald noggin. She had just participated in another head shaving event to raise money for childhood cancer research. Over the years I have thought it would be something I’d like to do. When Erika told me she was participating again this year I decided it was now or never. As Erika has expressed, it is a very emotional process. When I tell people what I am doing they are absolutely amazed and shocked that I would do such a thing. This is a very small way that we can show our patients our respect for the difficult road they travel. I can honestly say that I am terrified, but also extremely proud and committed to this process. I love my job and this small gesture is one way I can give back to the wonderful children I have had the privilege of caring for here at CHOC.

I am fortunate to work with some amazing nurses who have been so generous with their donations and emotional support. My family has been fundraising on my behalf as well, and the response has just been phenomenal.”

Viri Harris, clinical associate, Outpatient Infusion Center

pediatric cancer

“I have been at CHOC for 18 months, and this is the second time shaving my head as a form of honoring the children we serve. I wanted to do something to show my love for them and to show gratitude for the way they and their families have inspired me on a daily basis. To be completely honest, I was nervous about how my head would look bald- I had an intense fear that my head would be oddly shaped. But, then I thought about how I wanted to come alongside these beautiful kids, and my nervousness went away. We witness these kids and their families struggle on a daily basis and this has inspired me to support them in any way I can. If that means shaving my head to bring awareness and raise funds, that is what I will do- it is the least I can do.”

Have you had a special nurse at CHOC? Nominate them for the Daisy Award

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Female Physicians, Hospital Leaders Observe International Women’s Day

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we are highlighting a few of our female physician and hospital leaders. They offer insight and words of encouragement to women seeking to pursue careers in medicine.

international women's day

Kerri Schiller, senior vice president and chief financial officer

Don’t ever be afraid to take a leap – work hard and do your best.  You can be and have whatever it is you strive for – you just have to be willing to work for it.

Find yourself a mentor – someone who you trust and admire.  Keep in touch and reach out when you need advice or just to say hello.

Striking a balance between career and family can be very difficult. Healthcare, in particular, is a profession where the dedication to the well-being of others is of great importance. Having good friends and/or a partner who accepts your role and who shares and supports responsibilities  allows for greater satisfaction both at home and at the job. And, of course, working with people you enjoy and like is critical to your ability to perform your job and love what you do.

Accept the fact that some days will be hard.  I keep a small folder of mementos, including expressions of thanks or acknowledgement I have received from others through the years.  Going through that folder reminds me of times of accomplishments and success, as well as recognition.  There are going to be days when you feel like there’s no one in your court; that’s the day to pull out your file and give yourself a boost.

international women's day

Dr. Maria Minon, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer

It is my hope that women professionals in healthcare and other career fields will use Women’s Day as a reminder to exceed expectations and aspire to excellence as the Professionals they are – measuring themselves against all their peers – not just a select group.

A favorite quote of mine is from Eleanor Roosevelt, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”

I encourage women to take responsibility for themselves and their choices and to rise above to become the great individuals they desire to be.

international women's day

Dr. Mary Zupanc, chair of neurology and director of the pediatric comprehensive epilepsy program

Reach for the stars!  Go for it!  Whatever you want to do, follow your passion and your heart.  Don’t settle for less.  Money should not be the significant driver.  Money does not buy happiness or satisfaction.  In medicine and other careers, it is about making a difference, making the world a better place.

international women's day

Dr. Georgie Pechulis, hospitalist

Follow your instincts. Block out anyone trying to convince you otherwise. At times, you may feel like you have to prove yourself as a woman. Persistence, focus, and determination will allow you to reach your goal, no matter how unattainable it seems.  Failure and picking yourself up to overcome is part of the process. Be patient and respectful, but also respect yourself. Always make time to do something good for yourself. Surround yourself with other strong women to reach out to.

international women's day

Dr. Christine Bixby, neonatologist and medical director of lactation services

My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is that practicing medicine is a great joy and privilege. The hard work is well worth it. Having a medical career and family can be challenging but finding the right balance can be done with good planning and a great partner.

Go for it! Find what is your passion. Put your head down, do the work and you will definitely succeed.

When I began my career, I wish I would have known that I would find a group of wonderful, smart and supportive women who are always there (even at 2 a.m.) to pick you up and raise you up on the tough days.

Learn more about exploring a career at CHOC Children’s.





Explore career opportunities at CHOC.




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