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GUEST POST: Some Pediatricians Choose their Specialty... My Specialty Chose Me

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dr. Daniel DeSalvo (pictured here) writes:

I will never forget the doctor’s words that changed my life forever, “Daniel, you have type 1 diabetes.”

Without a doubt, it was a defining moment in my life. As a busy college student at the time of my diagnosis, I learned to juggle one more incredible responsibility—managing diabetes. With the guidance of an amazing health care team, I became proficient with insulin injections, counting carbohydrates and treating hypoglycemia. Despite being a political science major, I developed an avid interest in diabetes research. After a year of living with diabetes, I had an epiphany that would transform my future. I came to the realization that my interest in medicine and passion for helping others could be fulfilled in a career as a physician. The next semester, I enrolled in pre-med classes and never looked back.

During medical school, I kept an open mind about which field of medicine to pursue. My experience in each clinical rotation was intriguing, but in the end, I had no doubt that pediatrics was for me. My enthusiasm for children was unparalleled. I admired their liveliness, curiosity and unselfish love. I was challenged and amazed at the vast scope of pediatric disease, and embraced the responsibility of advocating for my patients.

For pediatric residency, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to Children’s National Health System where in addition to completing the core rotations in pediatrics, I was a part of the Community Health Track. This unique track focuses on health policy, advocacy and providing clinical care to vulnerable and underserved populations. A few of the worthwhile opportunities I have experienced include: completion of a fellowship in health policy at George Washington University, roundtable discussions with two U.S. Surgeon Generals, and the opportunity to lead a community health symposium on health care disparities. The ability to integrate public health issues into the practice of medicine was especially useful during a medical relief trip to Haiti shortly after the devastating earthquake.

Here at Children's National, I have received a solid foundation in pediatric medicine with vast exposure to subspecialty care, including elective rotations in pediatric endocrinology. It has been wonderful to spend my days (and nights!) caring for children. One of the most fulfilling aspects has been teaching medical students and co-residents. During the upcoming academic year, I will have the opportunity serve as chief resident. I eagerly anticipate the incredible challenges and responsibilities that this position will bring, and look forward to impacting a new generation of pediatric trainees.

In caring for endocrine patients in the inpatient, critical care and outpatient settings throughout residency, I found a deep sense of intellectual stimulation and personal satisfaction. The continuity of patient care in endocrinology and the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with patients and their families is very appealing to me. In my clinical experience, I have found that living with diabetes allows me to connect with patients in a unique way--empathizing with children while managing their illness and conveying the truth that diabetes should not impede their life.

While having diabetes does not define me, it certainly motivates me. It is astounding how an initially discouraging event gave me the vision to achieve an outstanding goal. As I pursue a career in pediatric endocrinology, I will strive to provide compassionate and comprehensive treatment to the children entrusted to my care. I am excited for the opportunity to continually apply my passion for endocrinology to patient care, to carry out research to further the field, and to serve as educator and mentor to future trainees.

While some pediatricians choose their specialty, pediatric endocrinology chose me. Many medical students and residents spend hours, days, and weeks pontificating over what field to choose…. other times the field finds you!

Daniel DeSalvo wrote this post as a third year pediatric resident in the community health track here at Children's National  Health System. Upon completion of his residency, he served as a chief pediatric resident here at Children's National. Thereafter he headed out west to Stanford for a pediatric endocrinology fellowship, where he helps others who are hearing those words that so impacted his own life.


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