Interested in Becoming a Pediatrician? Doctor and Infant Patient

A Day in the Life of Dr. Deborah Lehman, Pediatrician, Expert in Infectious Diseases, and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

Dr. Deborah Lehman went to medical school to become an obstetrician, but that all changed during her third-year obstetrics rotation.

"I found out pretty quick I was more interested in going with the baby to the nursery than I was in treating the mom," she says. So, she switched her focus to becoming a pediatrician, earned her medical degree at UCLA and completed her internship and residency at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.

During residency, Dr. Lehman worked with so many children with measles during a measles epidemic between 1988 and 1990 — a trend described by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — that she wanted to learn more about managing critically ill children. She proceeded to complete a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at UCLA and the University of California, San Francisco medical centers. Now, she is associate director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and is board-certified in both general pediatrics and pediatric infectious diseases.

Top Job Requirement: Must Love Kids — And Their Families

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Above all, says Dr. Lehman, you must love kids if you're thinking about becoming a pediatrician. You will spend most of your day around children of all ages, from newborns up to young adults, along with their families. Practicing general pediatricians will spend most of their days with young patients who are both sick and well. You may also spend a small portion of your day in the nursery visiting newborns, while making hospital rounds for any of your sick patients elsewhere in the hospital.

According to Pediatrics 101, a resource guide from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) , your day as a pediatrician may also include:

  • Managing serious, complex and life-threatening illnesses through referrals, and working with other care providers.
  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic disorders.
  • Measuring, monitoring and tracking physical and psycho-social growth and development through age-appropriate screenings and disease-prevention activities.
  • Advising and educating parents and patients on normal development or any predictable developmental challenges.
  • Participating in community-based activities in sports medicine, school health and public health.

Well-child visits with perfectly healthy children of all ages make up a large portion of your day, which is one thing Dr. Lehman finds so rewarding about being a pediatrician. "During these visits for yearly checkups, sports and camp physicals and vaccinations," she says, "we have the opportunity to guide the family on a child's growth and development. Over the years, these types of visits have a huge impact on the growing child and his or her future health and well-being."

Speaking with children and their families is a big part of the job, so if you want become a pediatrician, you should already enjoy working with and being around kids on a daily basis.

(Tips on Talking to Pediatric Patients. Click the link to learn more...)

Important Characteristics of a Great Pediatrician

Patience, tolerance, kindness, a sense of humor and creativity are all necessary traits when working successfully with kids and their families every day. "Imagine you are taught in medical school how do a head-to-toe physical exam. But, with kids, you can't always do things in order. You need to be patient and opportunistic and to play games and have fun because that's how you get things done in the exam room with kids," says Dr. Lehman. "Pediatricians have a good quality of life because daily life in the office is happy and bright and kids grow and generally get better."

Dr. Lehman is excited to devote more time to medical education, and will be heading up the clerkship for pediatrics for third-year medical students at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center this year.

(Is Being a Pediatrician Hard? Click the link to learn more...)