Today was an emotional day. After making the decision to accept the job offer to become the Division Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at a children’s hospital back in February, the day has come that all of our belongings (except what is going with us in the car) are being loaded onto the moving truck. I asked them to leave me one chair until the end of the day so that I can put on paper some observations and reflections I have made in the past few days. Life is constantly changing, but on a personal level we make decisions that determine the outcome affecting our jobs, health, happiness, quality of our marriage, and of course everything related to the lives of our children.
At least three steps are necessary to make a change. First, to make changes, one must become aware and decide that change is necessary, and possible, for whatever reason(s). Second, one must have a clear vision for the desired outcome or goals of the change. Third, a strategy should be developed for how to implement the change(s), including how to handle setbacks. This is the second professional move for me. We are are blessed to have the movers pack all of our belongings, move us, and unpack our belongings. Our relocation specialist took care of coordinating everything and has spoiled me with many personal phone calls to make sure things are going well. I spent the first several weeks after announcing my decision to leave Kansas City in agony, mostly from having to tell my patients and their families about my move, as well as recognize the mourning that I have experienced in leaving an amazing and blessed practice I have enjoyed here the Kansas City area. Then there is the sadness as I embrace that leaving means I must leave the so many talented, committed, and passionate people I know and work with at both University of Kansas Medical Center as well as Children’s Mercy Hospital who all work to make sure we take care of our patients first.
My three steps. When opportunities for job change came up, I first had to accept my own desire to even consider change and work in a new environment. I believe this is the right decision and believe that I can make an even greater difference in improving children’s health in my new opportunity. Second, I had to develop a vision. Except it’s not what you may think. Despite the exercise of having multiple pages of what I think an excellent Division or Department of pediatric ENT should look like, or will look like with me in its leadership role, in my heart, I know that the most important part of that vision involves the people that I will work with. I have learned through the privilege of seeing and caring for thousands of children and their families that the most important part of my practice is my relationship with them. This includes creating a safe and non-judgemental environment during our limited appointment time where they can tell me what’s wrong, an thorough exam, and a detailed, appropriate, and honest discussion about my assessment of the situation and why I make the recommendations I am making. Successful outcome in medicine is no different than in any other setting, and depends on people, not just scientific facts, fancy technology, more new drugs, or fancy surgical equipment. While all those things are important to help health care providers deliver high quality care, I believe high quality is measured by the human interactions and ability to inspire and motivate change. Finally, my strategy. Well, since I will be the new doc in town, and anonymous, my goals are to first let people know what I am and what my philosophy is about when it comes to issues related to children’s health. My strategy includes the basics of course, hard work every day, listening to those all around me and building relationships with a new team and teams of professionals whose common goal is to serve our patients. My new employer has the motto, “Your Child. Our Promise”. I am clear with myself that whatever my strategy is, it must reflect my promise to my patients and their families. What’s my promise? My promise to you is that I will only consider medication and surgery if there are no other alternatives, and that I will share as much knowledge as I have to offer that is relevant to your child’s issues when you come see me. My promise to my new team(s) is that I will always to open to feedback, be honest, and be transparent. I will value everyone around me as we all have something to offer.
Back to the move. When the crew leaders came this morning at 8am with his team, he introduced himself to me politely, toured through our house as I anxiously pointed out what was staying and what can be loaded. He explained to me his goal of finishing loading everything on the truck today, his vision of a great day, and his strategy for how he would accomplish his goal today. First he completed a comprehensive inventory of all boxes, then he explained the strategy of how the team would load the truck starting from our highest floors down. (We have an odd split level times 2 home, really like a 3 level home). His setback today was thunderstorm and rain, during which they simply stayed inside and prepared more items for loading.
Why am I blogging about this? I realized that when I counsel parents about potential positive changes that can and should be made to improve their children’s diet and dietary habits, we also follow three steps. First, the caretakers have to be open to my suggestions and believe that change is necessary. Most families I meet are open to our discussion about children’s diet and dietary habits since no one seems to be eager to get more prescriptions filled or sign up for surgery. Second, we discussion our vision – usually decreasing a child’s habit of nighttime snacks, excessive dairy and sugar intake, and developing habits of eating more fresh food, including fruits and vegetables and decreasing processed foods and/or junk food. Finally, the strategy. This part takes creativity and I need the families to help come up with changes that are realistic for their families and schedules. What works for one family may not work for another, and what works for one child may not work for his/her sibling! A Healthier Wei is not about a list of perfect foods, but about my career and personal epiphany about the importance of diet and dietary habits as the basis for human health. Empower yourself and your child today to make better choices about what and how they eat. Decide to make a change, see the vision of a healthier you and your family, and come up with which strategies will help you get there. Orlando and central Florida, here we come!
Julie L. Wei, MD FAAP
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.