CHOC Children’s leaders observe International Women’s Day

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, we are highlighting several CHOC Children’s female physician and nursing leaders. They offer insight and words of encouragement to women seeking to pursue careers in medicine.

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

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“When beginning your career in medicine, don’t focus on one trophy. The fields of medicine and nursing have so many opportunities within them; be courageous and try new things. The most important aspect of leadership and of career success is to be kind. Remember to form your own opinion—go into every relationship with your eyes open and stop looking through others’ eyes; they don’t always have 20/20 vision.”

Dr. Mary Zupanc, pediatric neurologist and co-medical director of the CHOC Children’s Neuroscience Institute

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“When I went to medical school, women were not encouraged and it was hard. There were a lot of things that happened that made it very difficult, but medicine is truly one of the most gratifying professions you will ever have.

Every patient is different. I believe that if you really and truly listen, a patient and their family will give you the diagnosis you’re searching for. Everyone’s story is so fascinating, and that makes our work like being a detective. Sometimes I feel like Sherlock Holmes searching for answers. Then once you do find an answer, you need to work with the family to make sure the treatment works for their lifestyle, culture and religion. That makes the work challenging, fun and meaningful.

The best piece of advice that I’ve ever received is to never apologize for excellence. Anyone would want their doctor to strive for excellence – and that goes for any profession.”

Amy Waunch, nurse practitioner and trauma program manager

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“Never underestimate your capabilities; do not shy away from opportunities and always take on new challenges. Believe in yourself but don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may not have all of the answers all of the time, but you do have the ability to learn and grow.

Spot growth opportunities when they present themselves because they are the key learning opportunities. You will know because they make you uncomfortable and your initial impulse will be that you are not ready.”

Dr. Azam Eghbal, medical director, radiology

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“Since I was 7 years old, I wanted to be a doctor and becoming one has been the best decision of my life. As a female immigrant, I was told that I could never get to medical school, which of course motivated and challenged me even more to do so.

The best advice I’ve gotten is: don’t be discouraged about all your falls and obstacles, think about how you can succeed to get where you want to be.”

Dr. Amber Leis, plastic surgeon

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“My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is to trust yourself! Early on in your career it’s easy to be overcome by feeling like you are not up to the task ahead of you. Your unique qualities will become your greatest strengths, so just keep chasing your passion.

I have great faith that if I stay true to my core principles, the right path will open in front of me. I try not to set specific goals for the future and instead I give my best to where I am. It keeps me focused on what I am doing now, and not distracted by trying to maneuver into some future place.

The best piece of career advice I’ve ever gotten has been ‘You get to choose what kind of person you will be.'”

Dr. Jasjit Singh, medical director, infection prevention and control

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“My advice for women pursuing a career in medicine is to follow your passion! There are few other careers that offer the personal satisfaction and the intellectual rigor that medicine does. Find a good mentor early in your career. Later, make sure your practice partners have abilities that you respect, and the talent to make your shared time together meaningful.

I learned early on that delegation and time management are important, particularly if you want to balance a medical career and family. You can’t always do it all, and prioritization is tantamount to success in all the different spheres of your life.

One of the best pieces of advice that I got was from a mentor during fellowship, who told me “It’s not enough to just be a good clinician.” He showed me the importance of asking good research questions and pursuing new knowledge. He also encouraged my love of teaching upcoming generations of pediatricians!”

Dr. Katherine Williamson, pediatrician

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“I love being a pediatrician. I help take care of kids every day and partner with their parents to help keep them healthy. To me, being successful is loving what you do because then working hard and being motivated to do well doesn’t feel like work; it’s fulfilling a passion.

When asked to give advice, I always say these three things: be yourself, don’t rush, and follow your heart every step of the way. Be yourself, always. No matter how busy or loud life gets, never lose sight of who you are and what you want to do.  Don’t be in a rush. Enjoy the journey because that is where you learn who you truly are. Lastly, follow your heart in every decision you make. When I look back on what got me to where I am in my career, I realize that it was not one or two big decisions that were the deciding factor, but instead it was a million little decisions along the way. And with each of those decisions I followed my heart and my passion.”





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CHOC1 Helicopter Marks 200th Flight

Marking the launch of a new era for emergency transport services at CHOC Children’s, the “CHOC1” helicopter landed for the first time atop the Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Children’s Hospital in 2018.

In just ten months, CHOC1 has clocked 200 flights, traveling all over Southern California, even as far north as Bakersfield, to transport critically ill patients to CHOC. On a typical afternoon, CHOC1 can fly to CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital in a mere seven minutes, as opposed to driving for one hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeways.

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The transport team is comprised of expert physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists.

The transport team is comprised of expert physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists. At the helm is Kevin Barber, lead pilot.

Throughout his 15-year career as a pilot, Kevin has flown many different types of aircraft on a variety of assignments, but he’s found the mission of flying children to be the most rewarding of his career. Prior to flying in the private sector, Kevin was a naval officer for seven years and holds a master’s degree in public administration.

“Aviation offers many different avenues but only being an emergency medical services pilot offers the ability to make a difference in your own community and help people on what is one of the worst days of their lives,” Kevin says. “Plus, the transport teams on our aircraft are top notch. There is a great amount of satisfaction flying with such professional physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics.”

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CHOC1’s lead pilot Kevin Barber.

According to service partner Mercy Air, CHOC1 is the only helicopter in Southern California based out of a hospital, with four pilots and mechanics housed on site at CHOC, giving the transport team the ability to jump into action immediately.

State-of-the-art equipment on board

The helicopter is specially configured with high-tech equipment including neonatal isolettes and smart IV pumps that are loaded through the back of the aircraft and secured into a confined space.

One device in the helicopter is designed to cool critically ill newborn infants.

“To help reduce chances of neurological impairment in these sick newborn babies, cooling needs to be initiated within four to six hours of birth, or even earlier for better outcomes,” says Tari Dedick, manager of emergency transport services. “If we pick up a critically ill baby in the Inland Empire, we can begin cooling immediately at the bedside and continue the therapy in the helicopter on the way back to CHOC, saving precious time.”

Safety is the No. 1 priority for CHOC’s transport team.

Mercy Air maintains its Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems accreditation, which has stringent requirements about staff training, medical equipment and even what the CHOC transport team wears, including flight suits and helmets.

Among Kevin’s vast responsibilities as pilot is to closely track weight and balance restrictions. It’s often a tight squeeze in the helicopter, with every person and each device weighed prior to the flight to determine precise weight and balance.

Widening reach

CHOC’s transport team, using ground and air transportation, travels 100,000 miles each year to bring more than 4,000 patients to CHOC. Looking to the future, Tari says, the transport team anticipates eventually transporting trauma patients from all over Southern California to CHOC’s Level II pediatric trauma center.

“Without a doubt, CHOC1 is widening our outreach while bringing the Southern California community closer,” Tari says.

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What We’re Thankful for This Year: 2018

The  physicians, nurses, staff and patients that make up the CHOC Children’s healthcare community have much to be thankful for this year. In addition to opening our Mental Health Inpatient Center and expanding our Primary Care Network, we’re grateful to be able to offer best-in-class care to kids in Orange County and beyond. A few members of the CHOC community share what they are most thankful for this year.

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Kimberly Chavalas Cripe

Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, president & CEO, CHOC Children’s

“This Thanksgiving – and always – I am grateful for our mighty brigade of physicians, staff, volunteers, donors and community members who are committed to keeping childhood alive and well.  The holiday season is a time of wonderment for kids, and illness or injury shouldn’t dim the brightness of the holidays for our patients and their families.  Thank you to our team for working tirelessly to preserve the magic of childhood.”

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Chris Furman

Chris Furman, chairman, CHOC Children’s Board of Directors

“This year, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as the incoming chairman of CHOC’s board of directors. Our entire board is dedicated to furthering CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children in Orange County and beyond. We are honored to support CHOC’s passionate team of physicians and staff and privileged to play a part in bringing world-class care to children and families.”

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Cynthia Neiman

Cynthia Neiman, chief marketing officer

“There are so many things that I am thankful for this year! I am so thankful to be working here at CHOC alongside a “mighty brigade” of passionate clinicians, associates, and my amazing team who are all dedicated to preserving the magic of childhood. I am thankful to wake up every morning and do something that I love with people who have a shared mission. This year, I am especially thankful for my family and that all of us will be together in the same city to enjoy the holiday together.”

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Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh

Dr. Maryam Gholizadeh, pediatric general and thoracic surgeon

“I am grateful for many blessings in my life. To name a few: I am thankful to be part of CHOC Children’s, one of the best children’s hospitals, and have the opportunity to do what I love the most, and that is to take care of children. Second, it is truly an honor and privilege to be a surgeon and have the trust of families with their most precious gifts on earth, their children. And finally, I am grateful for the support of my wonderful colleagues and all the staff at CHOC Children’s that allows me to do my job the best way I can.”

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Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb, emergency department charge nurse

“I am thankful to serve children and families who come to the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s. It’s my privilege to be a source of calm and care for our patients and families during a daunting and scary time. I’m also so grateful to work with a truly transformational leadership team, and alongside dedicated and compassionate staff who make up the best group I’ve collaborated with during my career.”

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Annette and Richard Symons

Annette and Richard Symons, CHOC Champions

“I am grateful that CHOC has given me the opportunity to build upon my parents’ legacy of giving. CHOC helped my husband and me realize our desire to establish a spiritual care endowment—walking alongside us throughout the entire process, putting our philanthropic goals first and working hard to make everything easy for us. As a long-time member of the Small World Guild, I’ve been fortunate to see the incredible healing and support that CHOC provides children and families. I’ve come to find that the more you get involved at CHOC, the more you learn just how amazing it is.”       -Annette Symons

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Dr. Charlie Golden

Dr. Charlie Golden, executive medical director, CHOC Children’s primary care network

“With each year that passes, all of us experience the many trials and blessings of life. As a father and a husband, I am truly thankful for my family, and am reminded every day by them of the true purpose of life. As a physician, I am thankful for my patients and staff, as they enlist me for advice, confide in me their most sacred concerns, and place their trust in me. As a physician executive, I am thankful for the skilled team of physicians and leaders that I work with who share a vision and work tirelessly to provide the highest quality healthcare to all children. Finally, I’m so very grateful for CHOC Children’s, and our vision to be a leading destination for children’s health.”

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Christian and his dad Bernabe

Christian, age 8, patient

“I’m thankful for my dad for making my favorite foods. I’m thankful for my mom because when I can’t sleep she climbs in my bed and lays with me until I fall asleep.”

Bernabe, Christian’s dad

“Thank you to every doctor and nurse for the special care they provide to Christian. I’m thankful for Jody, an oncology nurse practitioner because my son lights up whenever she comes into his room to check on him. Jody and Christian have a special bond.”

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Mallorie Boeing

Mallorie Boeing, pediatric intensive care unit registered nurse, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital

“This year and every year for the past four years since I became a member of the CHOC organization, I am thankful for my CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital family. From our unit assistants, electroencephalogram (EEG)  techs, child life specialists and volunteers, to our doctors and nurses both at CHOC Mission and Mission Hospital, I am thankful to be a part of such an amazing and passionate team of individuals. I am especially thankful this year for CHOC’s ability to provide tuition assistance while I obtain my master’s degree and for creating such a fun and positive work environment. I am also thankful for CHOC’s continued dedication to providing safe, high-quality, patient-and-family-centered care to all of Orange County’s smallest residents.”

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Dr. Kelly Davis

Dr. Kelly Davis, pediatric sports medicine specialist

“I was a resident at CHOC several years ago and am so thankful to be a part of the CHOC community again. I am thankful for all of my colleagues who help me continue to grow and learn as a physician. I am thankful for my patients who are the young budding athletes of the future. They entrust me with their pains and concerns and allow me to care for them and help them stay healthy while they achieve their sports dreams. Being at CHOC as a resident taught me so much and significantly shaped the doctor that I am today. I am most thankful to now be able to give back and pass on my love for teaching and our healthcare system to the next generation of doctors.”

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Dr. Joffre Olaya

Dr. Joffre Olaya, pediatric neurosurgeon

“I am so grateful for the privilege of working at CHOC Children’s and the chance to be part of a premiere clinical team within CHOC’s Neuroscience Institute. I take pride in working alongside such an incredible team of healthcare providers who understand that we care for the most vulnerable population. Shouldering this responsibility propels us to strive to deliver the best possible care to our patients facing neurological disorders. I’m humbled that parents entrust us every day with their children’s medical care.”

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Danielle Frausto with CHOC colleagues’ daughters

Danielle Frausto, registered nurse, neonatal intensive care unit

“CHOC has given me the opportunity to do what I love most. It is an honor to come to work every day and take care of our fragile patients.”

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Lisa Schneider

Lisa Schneider, nurse manager, mental health inpatient center

“I am very thankful for everyone who has warmly welcomed me into the CHOC family and also for CHOC’s dedication to pediatric mental healthcare. This is the first organization that I have encountered that is so passionate about de-stigmatizing mental illness and prioritizing mental health prevention, recognition and treatment in children. We are truly impacting the children in our area and are setting a higher standard for mental health care across the country.”

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Two Premature Babies, Two NICU Journeys: Rosie’s Story

Serving patients and families of Pediatric & Adult Medicine (PAM), a part of the CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network, for nearly 25 years would give anyone a unique perspective of CHOC.

But for Rosie Echevarria, a front office administrator, that understanding goes even deeper. After all, both of her children required an extra level of care in CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) when they were born decades ago.

“When I joined PAM, I didn’t have children at the time, but I knew that when I eventually started having kids, that they would be born at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange,” Rosie says. “That way, they could be right across the street from NICU if anything were wrong and they needed extra care. A lot of our patients had been treated at CHOC, and I just sort of knew that if my future babies went to CHOC, that everything would be OK.”

Rosie had no way of knowing that she would indeed become a NICU mom.

Clarissa, Rosie’s eldest child, was born at St. Joseph via C-section at 29 weeks gestation. Rosie stayed behind to recover from surgery while Clarissa was quickly transported to CHOC’s NICU. Facing a premature birth and the unexpected hospitalization of her first baby left Rosie feeling scared and worried.

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“My husband stayed by our daughter’s side, and when they got to the NICU, the doctors explained to him everything that was happening to our daughter,” Rosie says.

Rosie was able to join her daughter in the NICU the next day.

“Once I was transported up to the NICU in my wheelchair, the nurses reassured me that they would take care of my baby night and day, and that I could visit anytime,” Rosie says. “They explained everything that would happen, and what all the monitors she was hooked up to were for—I was included in every decision and considered part of the team.”

Rosie fondly recalls the personal way that Clarissa’s team of NICU nurses cared for her daughter 20 years ago.

“Because she was so little, she couldn’t really open her eyes—so her nurses made her a little eye mask with eyelashes and eyes,” she says. “It was so cute!”

Clarissa spent almost three months in the NICU.

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“The care she received was absolutely the best, from day one to release date,” Rosie recalls. “The doctors were wonderful as well. I think my daughter had the very best doctor because I would get a call every single time anything would happen, or if I needed to get to the hospital right away.”

During that time, she needed two blood transfusions. Before she could be discharged, CHOC nurses trained her parents on how to care for her using equipment she took home, including an oxygen tank and an apnea machine.

“They explained everything to me and reassured me that there was no need to be afraid—that Clarissa wasn’t in danger,” Rosie says.

A few years later, her son, David, was born at 32 weeks gestation at St. Joseph Hospital, and was immediately transported to CHOC’s NICU. Since Rosie already had a little one at home, she couldn’t spend as much time with her son in the NICU as she had spent when she was a first-time parent.

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“I was very sure the nurses would take really good care of him because I had already experienced it the first time,” she says. “I was never in fear that my child wasn’t taken care because I know the level of care that the CHOC NICU provides.”

David stayed in the NICU for two weeks before he was ready to go home — although his mom recalls that at that time he was never quite ready to wake up.

“He loved to sleep! He would never wake up. So, when we were getting discharged, we went home with a monitor and caffeine that staff showed me how to use and administer.”

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Today, Clarissa is a student at UC Irvine.

These days, Clarissa is studying forensics at UC Irvine.  She loves to travel and go to concerts with her mom. Clarissa lives with cerebral palsy and receives care from Dr. Samuel Rosenfeld, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at CHOC. David is a high school student who loves illustration and dreams of becoming an art teacher.

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David is now a high school student who dreams of becoming an art teacher.

Because of their prematurity, both had eye surgery when they were younger. Both sister and brother have regular eye exams with Dr. David Sami, a pediatric ophthalmologist at CHOC.

“The three words that come to mind when I think of CHOC are: caring, loving and reassurance,” Rosie says. “Doctors and nurses provide such excellent care and treat their patients as if they were their own children. As a first-time mom, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was never in fear. CHOC made me feel like everything was going to be OK.”

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An Opportunity to Touch Lives Through Knowledge, Compassion

Maureen Garrett, a charge nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital, believes she gains as much from her patients and families as they do from her.

“I have learned about courage, strength, resilience, love and joy by sharing in their hospital experience,” she says. “I love seeing a family grow from the overwhelming fear they first experience with an unexpected, premature birth to a confident, competent mother and father taking their newborn home.”

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Maureen, a registered nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit at CHOC Mission.

As CHOC Mission celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, Maureen is among a special group of employees who have been with the hospital since day one. She joined the CHOC Children’s health system in 1991, when she was hired to help open CHOC Mission.

Opened in 1993, the children’s hospital operates on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. The 54-bed hospital is the only dedicated facility for pediatrics in south Orange County, surrounding coastal areas and north San Diego County.

Through the years, Maureen has served in several capacities at CHOC Mission and has witnessed much evolution inside the hospital – most notably, she says, the hospital’s family – centered-care philosophy.

“The most significant change has been the dramatic shift to family-centered care where families really are viewed as part of the team, and hospital operations are designed to empower parents and facilitate their involvement in their child’s hospitalization,” Maureen says.

Maureen initially pursued a career in health care because she wanted to help others, and create a work-family balance.

“I love the opportunity to touch people’s lives through both knowledge and compassion,” she says. “In nursing, there are so many opportunities and so much flexibility. I knew it would be the kind of career that would allow me to be a parent but still allow me to grow professionally and be challenged always.”

Maureen’s enthusiasm for CHOC Mission extends far beyond mere professional pride: Her own two daughters received care in the hospital’s NICU, her own unit.

Shortly after the hospital’s founding, Maureen’s eldest daughter was born in 1994 at 32 weeks gestation and spent about a month in the NICU.

Maureen’s second daughter, just like her older sister six years before her, also arrived early, at 32 weeks gestation. She stayed in the NICU for about three weeks.

“I had trust in everybody here,” Maureen said. “I knew it was a good staff. If your baby ended up the NICU, where would you want them? I’d want her here. I had an intimate relationship with the people caring for them because I worked there.”

The experience of being a parent in the NICU influenced Maureen’s work moving forward.

“You think when you work in any area that you have a decent perspective, but once you walk it yourself, it does make you more sensitive,” she says.

Maureen knows firsthand how important having a nearby high-quality children’s hospital is for the community. And while CHOC Mission and its staff are celebrating a quarter century of serving south Orange County and beyond, no one is resting on their laurels.

“I hope that CHOC Mission will continue to grow in size and services as the community around it continues to grow,” she says. “I hope we will have a more active role in health and wellness promotion in addition to providing services for those affected by illness.”

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