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I believe that team-building and nurturing staff morale is critically important to building on the foundation of our work; the more supported we feel as providers, the better the care we give to our patients. So, I recently took the entire staff at Eugene Pediatrics and Thrive Behavioral Health out for lunch to celebrate the positives we've experienced at our practices within the last year.

That good news includes:

  • We all made it through the busiest, sickest winter season we've experienced in the past 10 years in our region and nationwide.
  • Eugene Pediatrics provided 7,330 same-day office visits for urgent concerns, which is a significant increase from prior years. This was an important goal for us, in response to patient surveys that requested more same-day access to pediatricians.
  • Thrive Behavioral Health welcomed child psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Schumann, who now works alongside the therapists, psychologist, developmental pediatrician, and the social work and pediatric medical teams at Thrive, which is our region's premiere example of fully integrated medical-behavioral health care for kids.
  • Doctors LoRanée Braun and Ross Newman will be joining our medical team in July. Dr. Braun is a U.S. Army colonel and pediatric infectious disease specialist, as well as an experienced clinical professor, teacher and mom of three. Dr. Newman is a father of four young children and an avid runner who grew up in the Coburg hills. We are so excited to have them join us!
The future is bright at Eugene Pediatrics and Thrive Behavioral Health. We have a fantastic team of loving, skilled people who are experts in taking care of kids, and it is a joy and a privilege to care for families every day.
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Motherhood is a sacred sisterhood, a collection of hearts devoted to the small people of this planet. I still remember the first moment I felt as though I belonged in this special group— it was my 30th birthday and I had my first glimpse of the tiny heart beating inside me (my future Jack in the first trimester). I wondered with awe, "What will it be like to be a mother?"

Now, more than twenty years later, I've had the blessing (and sometimes the curse) of knowing what it means to be a mom. It's late nights feeding your newborn, taking care of your toddler's fever and worrying about whether your teenage driver will get home safely. It's sitting in the audience holding your breath, knowing the big moment where your child will play "Twinkle, Twinkle" on her tiny violin is coming. And it's enveloping your son in your arms as he runs out of his high school's graduation ceremony waving his cap above his head in victory. 

Jack, now almost 20 and finished with his first year of college, and Liesl, nearly 18 and about to be a high school senior, have been the motivating force for me as a mother and my greatest inspiration in my work as a pediatrician. Watching them become young adults feels like a quote I recently heard: "Having a child is like pinning your heart to a little person's sweater and sending it out into the world." Sending my two big kids into the world is the hardest thing I have ever done.

And this summer marks a new and wonderful journey for me—becoming stepmom to two littles, six-year-old Jonah and Malika, a rambunctious second grader. They are giving me another run at mothering small children. And this time, it's different. I find that I worry less about the small things—which Easter outfit looks better or the call home from the teacher saying somebody pushed someone else on the playground—and focus more on how to raise good citizens of the world, how to teach children to be resilient and cherish people instead of places and things.

Motherhood evolves as we get older. Perhaps that is one of God's great gifts to women. We move on and we focus on new challenges.

With that said, one thing remains true for all of us in the mother sisterhood: wherever our children go, however old they get, whatever life brings our way, mothers love their children with a depth and ferocity unparalleled in life. To all my fellow mothers, enjoy your Mother's Day. You deserve it.




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As many of you know, an amazing thing happened this week. I reached out to our schools and community leaders, invited them to a Teen Suicide Prevention Summit, and the response was overwhelming.

My goal in convening the summit is to provide immediate help and support to kids who feel their only option is to take their own lives. We lost five kids to suicide in a matter of weeks in our community, and, as a person who grew up here, raised my kids here and cares deeply about the well-being of all children, I knew I had to contribute to a solution.

I did my homework on proven peer-based, school-based, nationally implemented strategies, then I started calling people. The response was tremendous.

School superintendants, leaders of mental health agencies and lawmakers from all over the state responded. Within a matter of a few weeks, more than 125 leaders agreed to meet and participate in a historic dialogue about teen suicide in our community.

Although I rarely worry, I'll admit that I lost a lot of sleep leading up to the summit. I couldn't help but think: What if there is contention and we are unable to have a productive conversation? What if no one in the room can agree on a solution? What if my presentation isn't convincing? I was pretty nervous entering that big room, and I sent up more than a few fervent prayers that God would guide the event.

What happened was truly inspiring. Leaders from our school districts all enthusiastically agreed to explore new ways to work together to prevent teen suicide. Over a dozen mental health agencies agreed to form new, closer relationships with schools to streamline access to services and provide help for kids in crisis. The lawmakers in attendance proposed powerful ways to fund prevention and intervention.

At the end of the night, I collapsed into my car and cried with gratitude. Rarely have so many important people sat together and accomplished so much in one night. I know that their work and their willingness to collaborate and find solutions will touch the lives of thousands of kids and families.

But some of the sweetest moments I've experienced as part of this summit didn't occur in that room. Rather, they came from the hundreds of people who have called or emailed to share their desire to help. Teens who have lost friends. Paramedics who've responded to suicide calls. Parents whose children have died or nearly died because they didn't feel they could live another day. Medical examiners, abuse specialists, social workers, teachers — so many caring hearts. Even my marketing partner, Turell Group — led by the incredibly energetic Dana Turell — turned its entire effort to organizing the summit, and donated much of their time, because they believe in finding a solution as much as I do.

The uprising of heartfelt love for our children shown bright, and it has been humbling and inspiring for me to witness. I am proud to live in this community, and prouder yet to see that, in the face of crisis, good and loving people from all walks of life seek to help our adolescents live happier lives.
There are many steps yet to come to implement an across-the-board solution to the problem of suicide, and every single person who's willing will have a role to play in our success. But at the end of the day, the common goal is to support and protect our kids. And that's something with which everyone can agree.

Stay tuned for ways that you can get involved as this community effort moves forward.

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prom-safety-325Prom night and graduation are special events. Many young people will tell you, the most exciting part isn't so much the dance or the ceremony as it is the parties that often follow. Unfortunately, the risk for tragedy increases when those celebrations include alcohol, drugs or distracted driving. As the mom of two teenagers and a pediatrician to many more, I urge parents to plan ahead and do the following:

  • Find a parent in your child's friend group who will host a "dry" party—absolutely no alcohol allowed—or host one yourself. It's important that the host parent stays on the premises throughout the entire party. Greet kids as they come to the door, so you know who is there. Remember, if you are the homeowner where minors are drinking alcohol, you are legally responsible if they get hurt or hurt someone else.
  • Be sure you know where your child will be during the night. Discuss their plans, who they will be with, the routes they will be driving, and what time they will be coming home.
  • Make sure your teen's cell phone is fully charged before they leave the house.
  • Don't rent your kids a hotel room (yes, lots of parents do this). It's developmentally inappropriate for teens and often creates unintended consequences.
  • Talk with your teen about your expectations—that you expect them to make good choices, including not drinking, using drugs or having sex. Even if your kids act like they're not listening, they are hearing you. So, keep talking. This may be a hard conversation to start, so ask your pediatrician for help if you are hesitant.

In addition, be sure to create a plan with your teen, so they feel comfortable contacting you for help if they get in a situation they don't want to be in. Prom and graduation should be memorable, fun and safe experiences for young people. With preparation, we as parents, can help make that happen.

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CostaRica-1-325I recently returned from a week in Costa Rica, and I brought home some eye-opening knowledge about this Central American wonderland that I want to share.

Much of our time in Costa Rica was spent exploring with guides, who told us beautiful stories about themselves, their families, their work and their country. As a pediatrician and mom, visiting this eco-conscious paradise was fascinating. Here are some facts I learned and observations I made throughout our journey:

  • Over 25 percent of Costa Rica is protected as either a national park or wildlife preserve, which is more than any country in the world.
  • Costa Rica is home to more than 10 percent of the world's butterflies, 34,000 insects and thousands of bird and plant species. Everywhere you look and listen, you find nature blazing in all its glory. One man we met said, "We are not wealthy, but we are rich in volcanoes, birds, flowers and happiness."
  • Health care and college tuition are free to all residents.
  • Attending medical school is also free, so long as the physicians who earn degrees remain in Costa Rica to work.
  • Families with children who are too poor to have a home are provided one by their government.
  • Costa Rica has no military. It did away with its military in 1949 and, instead, created a civil police force. The government decided to spend more on education, vowing to "create an army of teachers." Costa Rica's literacy rate is 98 percent, one of the highest in the world.
  • Most food is fresh, healthy and cooked by hand, allowing flavors to develop slowly. The supermarkets don't sell many processed foods (aside from some sugary cereals) and fast food doesn't exist in Costa Rica like it does in America.
  • Cell phones are a rare sight. As we drove through the towns, we mostly saw kids playing outside, adults sitting and talking on their porches, and people working and laughing together. During the week, my cell phone didn't work. That was strange for about a day; but afterwards, it felt incredibly freeing.
  • Costa Rican people spend a lot of time together; generations of families often live together and spend much of their time talking, working and doing crafts that are handed down from one generation to the next.
  • The average life expectancy in Costa Rica is close to 80 years.
  • Costa Ricans are proud of being happy. Their saying "Pura Vida" was explained to me as having many meanings, including happy life, pure life, simple life, and is used in place of "hello," "goodbye," and as a motto that summarizes their people's outlook. Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest countries in the world, mostly because the people who live there don't stress about things the way most foreigners do. Our tour guide said, "We live simply and happily, and we just help each other."

During my time in Costa Rica, I was able to slow down, unplug from the hectic world, engage deeply with people, appreciate this beautiful planet and become re-energized with the joy of being happy and content.

We may be rich in America, but there's a lot we seem to have lost-like how to be happy inside ourselves, how to share happiness unconditionally with others, how to take care of each other and how to live healthy. I hope to take forward with me the "Pura Vida" that I learned from the people of Costa Rica and find ways to express it daily, in my life and in my community.

A young man named Raphael demonstrates how he makes clay and hand-sculpts it into vases

We spotted a 10-foot-long crocodile near our boat during a tour of Palo Verde National Park

Lunch at Nogui's in Tamarindo

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