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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Thank You CHOC Doctors!

The nation will formally recognizesinger physicians on Doctors’ Day later this month – March 30, to be exact – but not a day has gone by in the last 50 years that I don’t think about all the wonderful doctors at CHOC Children’s who patched me up after falling from that tree.

And even all these years later, I still see one of the doctors I met during my 1964 hospital stay: Dr. Melville Singer, who is still on staff at CHOC.

Dr. Singer, 87, remembers the hospital’s opening on Oct. 5, 1964 well. A pediatrician who had been practicing in Orange County for about 10 years prior, Dr. Singer served on a committee that helped guide the hospital’s planning.

“The opening was something I was looking forward to for a long time – the need was there,” he says.

New hospital, new specialty

Dr. Singer was one of three cardiologists on staff during CHOC’s opening, a time when pediatric cardiology was still in its infancy. But changes came quickly, and they haven’t stopped since.

In the few years after the hospital’s opening, CHOC established a cardiac catheterization lab, where new techniques were introduced. Imaging processes were enhanced so that Dr. Singer no longer needed to drive to Los Angeles to get film developed. And the entire hospital continued to grow.

“It didn’t take long until we needed to expand,” he says, recalling CHOC’s original construction, which was attached to St. Joseph Hospital.

CHOC’s growth steady

Indeed, in his 50 years on staff at CHOC, Dr. Singer has watched the hospital make great physical changes, but he says the growth was well-planned, prudent and needs-based.

“As things grew and things developed, the course that the hospital leaders took to encourage future growth was appropriate and not out of bounds,” Dr. Singer says.

But no matter CHOC’s physical stature, the hospital’s significance to the community has always remained constant.

“We put all of our faith in CHOC and its system to manage the complicated patients,” he recalls. “Whenever there were patients who needed hospitalization, they were brought to CHOC. It didn’t take long to establish CHOC.”

New Orange County roots

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dr. Singer settled in Orange County after finishing his fellowship and residency at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. He loved the weather and the work, and stayed put.

“What’s not to like?” Dr. Singer asks.

He and his wife, Beverly, who is active in the CHOC-fundraising Lamp Lighter Guild, have four children. Three of the Singer children are in fields related to medicine, including one son who is a family physician, Dr. Singer says.

Today, Dr. Singer is a physician emeritus. He no longer treats children, but instead teaches electrocardiography and other skills to residents at CHOC. He is still involved in an adult congenital heart clinic at CHOC, where he frequently sees former patients who thank him for his help.

He can count me among them. On behalf of all CHOC patients, past and present, I thank Dr. Singer and all physicians on staff.

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A Bright Future: Bryan’s Story

I count myself as one lucky bear for being a part of the CHOC Children’s family. Ever since the doctors and nurses patched me up after my unfortunate fall, I have never wanted to be too far from this wonderful facility and the caring staff. And, guess what?  I am not alone. During my 50-week gratitude tour, I have met so many people who have bright future’s thanks to CHOC. Bryan is just one of them. Read his story to learn more.

When he was 10 years old, Bryan Mundia spent the majority of his time with physicians and nurses.Bryan Mundia

He suffered from a severe case of reflux; one that threatened his kidneys. Following a two-week stay for observation at CHOC Children’s Hospital, he underwent surgery to repair the valve between his ureter and bladder.

While most young boys would choose to put the hospital experience quickly behind them to focus on other pastimes, Bryan couldn’t let go. He had a strong desire to give back to CHOC.

Some 20 years later, Bryan is doing just that.

“My experience with CHOC changed my perspective on hospitals,” recalls Bryan. “I remember how friendly everyone was, from the doctors and nurses to the candy stripers. I remember playing video games – definitely not something I had expected prior to being admitted.”

Bryan speaks of his experience at CHOC with pride.  It was a life-changing event for me, he says.

As soon as he was able, Bryan became a hospital volunteer. His wife, Katie, and their dog, Molly, who is a certified pet therapy dog, are also volunteers, making it a family affair. It didn’t take long for Bryan to realize he wanted to do something even more.  He made the decision to change careers, from land surveyor to the media programs coordinator for Seacrest Studios at CHOC.

In his new role, Bryan manages the multi-media broadcast center, which provides patients with the unique opportunity to engage in activities related to TV, radio and new media.  He, along with his energetic team of interns and volunteers, provides a positive experience for patients and their siblings – one they likely didn’t expect they’d get when being admitted to the hospital.  Bryan can certainly relate to that!

“I know, from personal experience, the impact this hospital has on children and their families.  I am so proud to be a part of CHOC and try to give back in this way,” says Bryan.

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Hyundai Cancer Institute Associate Spotlight: Janet Hager, Case Coordinator

Janet Hager is case coordinator for the After Cancer Treatment Survivorship (ACTS) Program. After working in several different areas of the hospital for more than 30 years, she found her home in the Cancer Institute.

“I primarily worked with cancer patients many years ago when I worked in the ambulatory care clinic,” Janet said. “I felt drawn to working with oncology patients ever since. When the case coordinator position in the After Cancer Treatment Survivorship Program became available in 2002, I knew that it was the right move for me.”

Janet and the rest of the ACTS team have dedicated themselves to helping cancer survivors navigate life after treatment.

“It is very gratifying when we see our patients ‘graduate’ to their adult doctors,” Janet said. “Our team of doctors, nurses, and social workers couldn’t be more proud of our patients when we see that they have become savvy healthcare consumers and know how to advocate for their future health.”

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Hyundai Cancer Institute Associate Spotlight: Julene Schenk, Case Coordinator

For more than 20 years Julene Schenk has been caring for cancer patients at CHOC Children’s. She began her career as a bedside nurse and charge nurse in the hospital’s oncology division and became a case coordinator in 2008. As the neuro-oncology case coordinator, Julene works one-on-one with patients and their families to help them throughout their cancer treatments.

“I love working with my patients and their families,” Julene said. “I have the opportunity to teach them all about their treatment process and chemotherapy regimens. I also advocate for them and help to alleviate any stressful problems that may come up along the way.” Julene also works with the family’s insurance company to ensure that treatment and accompanying therapy are covered.

The Neuro-oncology Treatment Program at the Cancer Institute uses a team approach to treat patients. The team, led by Violet Shen, M.D., is made up of multidisciplinary specialists including a social worker, clinical research nurse, neuropsychologist, nurse practitioner, dietitian and child life specialists.

“Our team approach makes the care we provide exceptional,” Julene said. “We work very closely with one another and have a great rapport. The most important people on any patient’s treatment team are the family. Because a patient’s family is that child’s best expert, parents and caregivers are involved in every step of the treatment process.”

To learn more about the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, please click here: http://www.choc.org/cancer/index.cfm

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