As another year comes to a close, it’s natural to feel a little reflective. Personally, the last 12 months brought a lot of change in my life, and I’m pleased to say that these changes have been very welcome. About 10 months ago I left a career in music journalism to work as a writer for Children’s Hospital Boston, even though I knew very little about pediatrics. At the time I could have told you everything you never needed to know about obscure English bands from the 1980s, but would be hard pressed if you asked me the difference between scoliosis and cystic fibrosis. Still, despite the misgivings I felt about covering topics I was unfamiliar with, my true desire as a writer has always been to share people’s stories. From my first day on the job at Children’s I’ve been lucky to hear so many amazing ones that the transition has felt very natural. My understanding of pediatrics has increased dramatically in the past year, and I’m still learning new things everyday. It’s one of the best parts about my job and I hope that never changes.
Of course I’d be remiss not to mention the other contributors who make Thrive such an interesting read and great place to work. Claire McCarthy, MD, has a well of experience that’s as vast as her writing talent; making her weekly Thrive posts consistently amazing. Her life as a pediatrician, medical director and full-time mom gives her writing the perfect combination of medical knowledge and parenting savvy. My only complaint with her work is she’s a real tough act to follow. Case in point, her blog post Remembering Aidan was one of the best pieces of writing I saw all year, Thrive or otherwise.
Michael Rich MD, MPH, Children’s media expert, is another triple threat, and like Dr. McCarthy, is a great example of a balanced writer. He started his career as a Hollywood filmmaker, and now as a parent and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, he advises parents on how to best navigate the blitzkrieg of media children are exposed to everyday.
There were several memorable moments that resonated within the medical community and the world at large in 2010, and Thrive has touched on many of them. The year began on a somber note, with a devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed 300,000 and left thousands homeless. For the entire year Children’s has been a part of the relief effort and Thrive has continued its coverage of the disaster and its aftermath, long after mainstream media had moved on. At home, the news media has become recently aware of the dangers of concussions, especially to young athletes, or alcohol companies that are marketing products at young consumers and Thrive was always at the forefront of the discussion.
In keeping with the reflective tone of this time of year, the following are just few of the stories that I consider to be the most interesting and influential from my first year as a pediatric blogger. In my opinion they not only highlight the inspiring work and strength of Children’s staff, patients and families, but also demonstrate the connective powers of modern technology. I know many blame the internet for the death of interpersonal communication— and to a degree they may be right— but not a day goes by where I am not humbled by how this blog connects so many different people, from all over the world, to discuss a topic as universal and important as children’s health.
It’s been a pleasure getting acquainted with so many different Thrive readers this year, and whatever topics await us in the new year, I look forward to learning about them with all of you in 2011.
Children’s Gender Management Service Clinic (GeMS) had a busy year treating patients with Gender Identity Disorder. Sylvia, one of GeMS’s patients, was featured in a Dream article on a puberty suppression treatment offered through the program. But Sylvia wasn’t the only one changed by her treatment. Her father, a former military man and self-described “moderate conservative,” says raising his transgender daughter has been the most eye-opening experience of his life. This deeply personal and touching account of how his daughter’s transformation has in turn transformed his views on life, love and acceptance is one of Thrive’s most well read stories, and one I am very proud to have been a part of.
From artificial organs to robotic surgery, Children’s provides cutting edge treatment for so many rare and specific medical conditions it’s easy to forget about some of the more universal issues the hospital staff sees on a day-to-day basis. This story about Children’s Toilet Training School, a subdivision of the hospital’s Pain and Incontinence Program, is a great example of the amazing range of conditions treated at Children’s. It’s also a good reminder that what’s a simple rite of passage for one child can be a serious issue for another, and that every small victory deserves to be celebrated.
I spend a good part of my day researching pediatric conditions and treatment, in doing so I’m always amazed by the seemingly endless number of uplifting stories written about children and their families overcoming illness and adversity. It’s very inspirational, but also makes the following post from a mother of two chronically ill children seem that much more powerful. The author and I worked together to convey her feelings that despite the many advances in medical technology, raising sick children can still be very difficult. She’s a good writer, and an even better mother, and I think parents everywhere can appreciate the honesty and vulnerability found in her story.
In 2010, bullying and childhood obesity were two of the most discussed topics among parents and educators. When the two collide it can make for a very difficult situation. That’s exactly what Suzanne Rostler, MS, RD, LDN, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program, spoke about in this interview, where she explains how parents who use teasing and “tough love” to get their kids to slim down may be doing more harm to their child than his or her weight.
Working in a hospital is very serious business, and the clinicians I’ve interviewed over the past year have all displayed the utmost professionalism. That dedication is what makes Children’s a world leader in science driven care, but from a writer’s perspective, it can sometimes lead to repetitive story structures. But when the hospital’s professionalism overlaps with lighter topics, as it did with this story about Athos Bousvaros, MD, MPH, associate director of Children’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, it makes for fun read. A life-long comic book nut, Bousvaros took his love for funny books and translated them into a unique way of making medical literature less confusing for his young patients.