|Rachel Dawkins MD, FAAP
New Orleans, LA
A little over four years ago I was getting ready to attend my first AAP NCE in Washington, DC. I was excited to learn more about the academy and how I could get involved as a pediatric resident. I had paid my registration and secured the weekend off -- a feat for a second year resident!
However, I never made it to that NCE because of an event that would change everything Hurricane Katrina. Not only was New Orleans in disarray, but my residency program at Louisiana State University was displaced to Baton Rouge. My fellow residents and I were living in cramped quarters on a converted ferry and taking call at unfamiliar hospitals. Many of my friends had lost their homes and their belongings.
Not knowing where to turn for help, I called the dedicated staff at the AAP. Within days, the Friends of Children Fund dispersed checks to all of the residents in the programs affected by the hurricane. These funds truly helped in a time of need and uncertainty. In addition to the AAP, pediatricians across the country donated funds and supplies necessary for all of us to start seeing kids again.
Seeing how the AAP truly cared about its members further inspired me to become involved in the Academy. I was elected to the Section on Residents executive committee as district 7 assistant district coordinator and then district coordinator. I wanted others to understand the full value of being involved in the AAP and to be inspired to become active in advocacy at a local, state or national level. Being a part of the SORe executive committee gave me a glimpse of how many dedicated people are working tirelessly on behalf of children (not to mention the millions of acronyms I learned!) During my third year of residency, I participated in a month long internship program with the Dept. of Federal Affairs. I have a passion for politics and spending a month in DC lobbying for children and pediatricians was a perfect fit.
After finishing residency and spending a year as Chief Resident, I have stayed in New Orleans as an Assistant Professor at LSU and as a general pediatrician in one of our continuity clinics. Transitioning to life as a young pediatrician has at times been challenging. Understanding the intricacies of billing and coding, sorting through forms and paperwork, keeping clinically up to date and balancing work and personal life are still works in progress.
My family in Florida would say that I have embraced the spirit of the city of New Orleans. I enjoy living in such a flavorful and eclectic city. New Orleans continues to rebuild every day and there are ample opportunities to be an advocate for children. I hope to be part of the rebuilding process and to inspire others to do the same!
AAP members are making a difference in their communities all over the world. "Member Spotlight" is the place to share pride in the accomplishments and contributions of our members. If you or another member you know are making a difference, tell us about it! Please send your story and a photo to AAP Membership at firstname.lastname@example.org.