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Question
I am doing a project on Pediatricians, and I was wondering if you could tell me what a typical work week would look like for a Pediatrician.  What I mean by this is what are the typical activites or jobs you would have to do during the week (on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) along with the times of each activity.  

Answer
I get asked these sorts of questions often, and rather than answer each one, it is much more convenient for me to give you a set of answers for similar questions I've compiled over time.  Your question is down there...

What is your job?
I am a pediatric cardiologist, which means I take care of children with heart problems.  I also take care of a lot of adults with heart problems they had as children, since there are very few doctors who specialize in adults with this sort of problem.  Cardiologists figure out what sort of heart problems people have (diagnosis) and do a lot of the treatment, including fixing many problems with special devices and medicines.  We do not do open heart surgery - that is for specialists called pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons.

What inspired you to choose this career?
I had actually planned to go to medical school only to get the training I would need to do research.  Once I was there, however, I discovered that I really got more enjoyment out of medicine (I still do research, though). I chose pediatrics not because I loved taking care of children (I hadn't had much experience by the time I had to pick a specialty), but because the pediatricians I worked with were the people I liked the best. It's important to have colleagues you relate to.  Pediatric cardiology appealed to me because it is a common problem in children, and the vast majority of children with it can be helped with medical care.

Do you ever regret choosing this career?
Never. In fact, the more I do it, the more I love it. I think this is true of any complicated job - as you get better at it, you get more gratification out of doing it. Helping children feel better is the best job I can think of (even if they're not always that happy to see ME).

Is it hard to deal with children who die?
Although I do care for children who are not expected to survive, and ultimately do pass away, helping patients and families in this situation is actually one of the most gratifying parts of my job.  It takes a special set of skills, both professional and personal, that get better with time.  I think providing good support during this time is one of the most valuable things I do.

How do you spend your day?
I work about 60 hours per week:
Mon Fri 8:00 ward rounds (seeing patients in the hospital)
Tue, Thu & Fri 9:00 12:00 clinic (seeing patients in my office)
Wed 8:00 12:00 cardiac catheterizations (I no longer do this, but used to)
Administrative meetings several times per month
The rest of the time is spent with unscheduled activities including:
  Talking to families on the phone or in the office
  Performing or interpreting tests (electrocardiograms, echocardiogram, exercise tests)
  Writing reports and letters for the referring physicians who send their patients to me
  Research projects
  Reading journals and report on paper and on the Internet
  Administrative work such as reviewing charts to make sure the quality of care is good

Do you have any free time for a personal life?
You have to make it a top priority, right below the safety of patients. I have set times I save to spend with my family that I rarely miss. Otherwise it's easy for the work to take all your time.

Is the insurance companies a big hassle?
Sometimes. In their effort to save themselves money, they can set tasks that take up a lot of your time.

Have you ever had a case that you could not treat a child because they did not have any insurance?
No. I work in an academic medical center, which is a non-profit organization with a mission to serve the community. Every child whose health or safety requires cardiac care can get it. Sometimes we do not get paid, but that is part of the mission of a hospital, and we do get some support from the government for that sort of care.

Do you ever get tired of doing the same thing everyday?
No two days are the same. That's the fun of being a doctor - every day is a new set of challenges and solutions.

What type of personality do you need to be able to enjoy this job?
Pediatricians have to be very patient (because sometimes children just can't be rushed) and they have to be able to feel good about helping someone, even if that person is not that pleased about getting helped (as many children are not).  It is also a big part of a pediatrician's job to listen to their patients and their families, and to try to answer the questions patients ask, and sometimes the questions patients don't ask, but which worry them.  Often the mothers of my patients worry that they have themselves caused the heart problems their children have.  I usually go out of my way to let them know when this is not the case, even if they don't ask.  People who are not good at this sort of thing, or do not enjoy it, sometimes have a hard time as pediatricians.

What was college like and did you ever think of changing your major to something easier?
I majored in Psychology and Art. I switched to pre-medicine late in my third year, so I missed all the anxiety that the pre-medical students always seemed to have. College was a wonderful experience. Too bad you can't go do it again when you're older!

What kind of education do you need for this job?
After college there are four years of medical school.  After medical school is 1-3 years of residency training in pediatrics (the first year is generally called your "internship").  At that point you can start a job as a pediatrician, although many people follow their residency with another 3-7 years of subspecialty fellowship.  For example, I did a fellowship in pediatric cardiology, and now specialize only in the care of children with heart problems.   

What types of accreditation or licensing are required?
Medical licenses are issued by the individual states in the United States.  To apply for a license to practice medicine in your state, you need to graduate from medical school; pass a three-part test (starting in medical s

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Lars Erickson, MD MPH

Expertise

I am interested in fielding questions about heart problems in children, particularly the medical and surgical treatment of heart malformations.

Experience

I have been practicing medicine since 1984, and pediatric cardiology since 1987. I have practiced in California and Massachusetts.

Publications
American Heart Journal, American Family Physician, Circulation, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Lancet, Pediatrics, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric Research, Pediatric Reviews

Education/Credentials
1979 ScB (Psychology), Brown University
1984 MD, Duke University Medical Center
1985 Internship in Pediatrics, University of California at San Francisco
1987 Residency in Pediatrics, University of California at San Francisco
1990 Clinical Fellowship in Pediatric Cardiology, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA
1998 MPH, Harvard School of Public Health

Awards and Honors
1992 Navy Achievement Medal
1993 Distinguished Teacher Award, Academy of Family Practitioners
1993 Teacher of the Year Award, Pediatric Residency Training Program, Department of Pediatrics, Naval Hospital San Diego.
1995 Excellence in Teaching Award, Pediatric Residency Training Program, Massachusetts General Hospital

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