Young patients make big impact on new doctors

Two years ago, the residents of Carle’s House Staff Association decided it was time to give back. 

Current vice president Elizabeth Ackerson, DO, said the inspiration for their action came from the fact that Carle provided money for the association to exist. Its formation meant residents had a formal way to make decisions impacting their group and could steer discussions about their chosen profession.

So when they began to distribute the money, members prioritized finding a way to help another area of the organization.

“As one of the Family Medicine residents here, I can say that we work on the Pediatric floor a lot during rotations,” Dr. Ackerson said. “One thing that always catches our eye is the holiday decorations they have up around Christmas time.

“We also know how important the Child Life specialists are to providing excellent patient care, so we wanted to find a way to contribute there specifically.”

So for the last two years, the House Staff Association has put some money aside for a shopping spree for toys to Pediatrics.

While Dr. Ackerson said this does provide an opportunity for the residents to do something fun together, she said it also serves a realistic need that doctors have when they round on the hospital’s young patients.

“There is a major difference between our adult and child populations in the hospital,” she said. “With the adults, you can effectively communicate, as a doctor, why they are in the hospital and what we can do to help them.

“But for so many of the kids we visit with, we scare the daylights out of them. Talking to their parents is one thing, but to find a way to break down that barrier is important.”

Dr. Ackerson said many of the Family Medicine residents have been in the rooms with young patients when the Child Life specialists enter. They often come with a toy or other item that piques the kids’ interest.

This practice also benefits surgical residents, who, she said, initially meet with young patients with a Child Life specialist.

General Surgery resident and House Staff Association president Robert Hoffman, MD, emphasized the toy drive as a way to give back, and the other members were eager to make it happen.

This year she personally went shopping for the toys donated, which included a lot of Minions and characters from the movie “Frozen.”

“The most fun is actually when we present the toys to Pediatrics,” Dr. Ackerson said. “We always do this as a group, in the evening after a long day at work. It gives us an opportunity to have a little fun and do something nice.”

In her second year of the three-year Family Medicine residency, Dr. Ackerson said she’s learned that at Carle, little things, like this toy donation, feed the bigger things, like Carle’s Child Life department. Together this kind of effort helps this organization separate itself in this community.

And she should know, considering she grew up in Champaign and did her undergraduate work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Being from the area motivated Dr. Ackerson to take her residency at Carle, and the experience so far has lived up to what she hoped it could be.

“I believe that being from here and knowing a lot of people from here gives me a unique perspective on the healthcare needs of the community,” she said. “Occasionally I will have people I know visit me as a patient, and that’s really great because they are putting their trust in me to be their doctor.”