Growing up at their own pace

This article was written by Carin Moonin and originally appeared in the Portland Monthly 2016 Kids’ Health Annual magazine.

All kids aren’t on the same schedule – and that’s just fine.

Puberty isn’t an easy time for anyone. And if a child is small or tall for his or her age, then it can be even more difficult. But when should parents be concerned about their child’s growth spurt – or lack thereof?

If your child is short, the most common reason is genetics: Short parents usually have short kids, says Katie Woods, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Parents concerned about how their child is growing should talk to their pediatrician and consider seeing a specialist if their child’s height is below the third percentile on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth chart, or if their child’s growth rate is slow – for example, if they had been above the 75th percentile but are now at the 25th percentile.

Doctors will first examine the child for other health issues that might be affecting height or weight gain, such as chronic illness, malnutrition, kidney disease or a gastric illness that prevents food absorption, such as celiac disease. Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) can cause a child to gain weight but not height. Growth hormone deficiency is another condition that doesn’t usually show symptoms other than lack of growth. If tests show growth hormone deficiency, doctors will check the pituitary gland to look for an abnormality that may be affecting hormone production.

Usually, most growth disorders can be successfully treated. Hypothyroidism can be addressed with thyroid hormone supplements; growth hormone deficiency gets treated with a daily injection of growth hormone.

The same genetic principle goes for the onset of puberty, too: If a parent hit puberty later in adolescence, then the kids will probably have to be patient, too. The average age girls begin puberty is 10-11 years old, though the range is about 8-13. For boys, puberty starts at 11-12 years old on average, with a range of 9-14. Children grow very fast in puberty, and when puberty is late, they may be much shorter than their classmates.

“Constitutional delay, also known as ‘late bloomer’ syndrome, is common and nothing to worry about,” says Dr. Woods. “If a child has typically been at a lower percentile on the growth chart, or was underweight in childhood, they may be late bloomers. Eventually, when puberty kicks in, the child will catch up in height.

While the physical issues get addressed, parents shouldn’t forget the emotional ones. Middle school is a tough time for everyone: That’s when kids needs parental support the most, Dr. Woods says. “Make sure to promote self-esteem in the child; kids will pick on something, whether it’s height or hair color. Give the child reassurance that he or she is normal and healthy. The attitude of the parent has a huge effect on the child.”

If you have concerns about your child’s growth, talk with your pediatrician or call Doernbecher at (503) 346-0640. 

Suggested reading:
The Talk: Let your kid’s questions be the guide

Bends in the road

Below, Doernbecher dad Jerris Marr shares his family’s incredible journey – and invites you to help make a difference in the lives of other patients and families.

Throughout life’s journey there are bends in the road that you never see coming.

July 2007. During a family vacation, we noticed that our 4-year-old daughter Faith’s back was not bending as it should; she frequently complained of pain. At one point, when lightly wrestling with her brother, she screamed in pain at light pressure in the same area.

August 2007. After multiple X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and visits with a myriad of doctors, we found ourselves facing an eight-hour surgery to remove a portion of a vertebra, due to a bony growth.

Entering the recovery room following the surgery was terrifying. Our job as parents is to protect our children. Here was our baby, in horrible pain, with an incision from her sternum to her waist, another from her belly button around her side to her spine and a third across her lower right rib cage where a rib was removed to help repair the vertebra. This was the first of four major back surgeries that she would have within the year.

September 2007. We had been home from the hospital just a few days when the doctor called and requested an immediate, in-person meeting. No information was provided – our hearts sank.

Upon arrival we were informed that detailed testing of the bony mass removed from Faith’s vertebra confirmed that she had low-grade bone cancer. Due to several factors, her situation was incredibly complex and unique, with no treatment protocol established.  

I’ll never forget looking at Faith, sitting there in a wheelchair after such an invasive surgery. Life had just skidded off the road and crashed in a heap of pain, uncertainty and tremendous fear.

We challenged our doctor to consider all possibilities – to fight, just as we were prepared to do to save our Faith. We agreed to outline our options and meet again in a few weeks to set a new course of action.

In the next five years, Faith underwent numerous surgeries, adult doses of chemotherapy and radiation. We received treatment from specialists in multiple care facilities in Portland and Boston.

April 2012. Our Faith was declared a SURVIVOR.

Faith is with us today because of the OHSU Doernbecher team. Throughout the journey, Doernbecher has been exceptional in all aspects. Regardless of a care team member’s role, they demonstrate a genuine warmth, compassion and commitment to help. We faced many unexpected challenges during Faith’s treatment. Some continue today. The staff at Doernbecher remain connected to Faith’s care and well-being, ensuring that she is receiving necessary ongoing treatments, even when she’s not in their direct care. They are not just her doctors; many have become family to us.


The OHSU Doernbecher Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program is a critical element of the comprehensive care of childhood cancer survivors. The physical, emotional and developmental challenges associated with not only the illness, but also as a result of the treatment, require ongoing care long after the primary treatment is completed.

Right now, the Survivorship Program has a wonderful “problem:” More children are long-term survivors of their cancer than ever before. Having experienced a greater than 200 percent increase in the number of visits per year since 2013, the clinic has inadequate financial resources to optimally support its current patients or to grow its program to meet the needs of its many future survivors.

On September 23, we kick off Survive 47.8, an event that will challenge a diverse group of athletes to navigate the Grand Canyon from the south rim to the north rim – and back – without stopping. This is 47.8 miles logged in extreme elevations.

Most people complete this challenge in two or three days, but we’ve challenged ourselves to complete it within 24 hours. The physical and emotional challenges will be incredibly difficult, but pale in comparison to what the children and their families face when fighting childhood cancers.

We step into the canyon with a goal to raise $1,000 per mile – $47,800 in total. All of the donations raised will go directly to the OHSU Doernbecher Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program. Please join us in reaching this goal. You can further explore our journey, upcoming fundraising events, donate directly and learn more about our inspiration at

I will never forget 2007, and the five years following it: watching my daughter suffer, hearing there was nothing I could do. Thanks to Doernbecher, I believe there is always something we can do as a community to continue to fight cancer.

Learn about upcoming Survive 47.8 fundraising events – including a wine tasting at Rallison Cellars in Sherwood on Sunday, July 31 – and more ways you can support Survive 47.8 efforts here.


With Pokémon, not everything’s a ‘go’

Do your kids have Pokémania? Parents have a lot of questions about Pokémon GO, the latest augmented reality gaming sensation. With some headlines touting the benefits of the game and others bemoaning its risks, it can be difficult to dispel what’s best for you and your kids.

Below, OHSU Doernbecher Tom Sargent Safety Center Director Dr. Ben Hoffman shares some safety tips and considerations for kids and grown-ups alike.

Be aware of physical boundaries

One of Pokémon GO’s perhaps inadvertent health benefits is physical exercise – movement is a critical part of the game as players must physically be near a Pokémon in order to “catch” it. I’ve talked to kids who’ve walked up to seven miles in a single day playing the game – that’s great!

But it’s important for kids and adults to know how far they’re going and to recognize their limitations, both in terms of parental permission and personal fitness. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re unable to get home safely.

Because it’s summertime, it’s also really important for families to take additional safety precautions to avoid sunburn, heat stroke, dehydration and other incidents that are more common this time of year. You can find a list of our summer safety tips here.

Be aware of personal boundaries

Pokémon GO has given families a great excuse to get out and spend time outdoors together. It encourages you to explore places you haven’t been before – if you can do that in a safe way. The inadvertent exercise is an added bonus!

That said, remind your kids to be respectful of others and of the environment they’re in. Your playing this game should not interfere with passersby, and you need to be aware of dangers with traffic or with public transportation. Take time to assess your surroundings and any potential safety hazards – both for you and for others around you.

Don’t play Pokémon GO while crossing streets, in dimly lit areas, in rough terrains that may pose danger, while in the vicinity of public transportation (especially MAX), on private property or, perhaps most importantly, while driving.

Prior to Pokémon GO, we knew that distracted driving was equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%. Using your phone for any reason while driving puts you, other drivers and pedestrians at risk.

Distraction is a potential safety issue even when kids are paying attention. If there’s one thing I’d like parents to know, it’s this: Try to avoid moving while you’re staring at your phone.

You don’t need to be walking to catch a Pokémon, so find a safe place to “pull over” and stop before proceeding with the game. You can also adjust your phone settings to vibrate when there’s a Pokémon nearby, so there’s absolutely no reason to be glued to your phone when you’re out and about.

Be aware of geographic boundaries

We’ve all seen recent news headlines about Pokémon GO users being injured or harmed while playing the game. As parents and guardians, we know that there are places where you and your kids should not go. Have a conversation with your kids about these boundaries, and set clear limitations on where your kids can and cannot go to search for Pokémon. There is no substitute for adequate supervision of kids of all ages.

It comes down to this: Just be smart. Please think before –and while – you play. Be aware that people have used this as an opportunity to lure bystanders into unsafe situations. If something seems not quite right or if it’s not a known quantity – if you don’t know it’s safe – don’t do it. There’s no Charmander that’s worth the risk!

The bottom line: Just be aware.

Prioritize your family’s safety above everything else. Despite the game’s tagline, you really don’t gotta catch ‘em all.

NOTE: In addition to the above guidelines, we ask that Pikachu-seeking visitors who find themselves on our OHSU campuses kindly respect our patients, families and employees by staying out of patient care and other restricted areas, and only parking in designated visitor parking. 

‘Grass Strong:’ Andy’s Doernbecher story

In December 2014, a sneaker wave hit 10-year-old Andy Grass and his brothers while visiting Rockaway Beach, Ore. The boys jumped on a log to avoid the sneaker wave, but Andy fell and the log rolled on top of him, resulting in multiple serious injuries.

Below, Andy’s dad, Paul, shares how Andy’s hospitalization and prolonged recovery affected their family – and how it continues to teach all of them strength, resilience and healing.


Our world was forever changed on December 24, 2014. And while our story will be told with a happy ending, it began with the most terrifying experience we could have ever imagined. It has been 18 months since Andy’s accident, but the memory of finding our son trapped under log is hard to erase from our memories. After we were able to dig him out from under the log and secure him to safety, he rested calmly in his mother’s embrace until the ambulance arrived. With broken bones all over his body and injured internal organs, Andy was able to save his last breath until he arrived at the hospital. As his second lung was collapsing and his world was about to go dark for many days his final words were, “What did I get for Christmas?”

I will never forget the words from his trauma doctor at OHSU Doernbecher when we arrived at the hospital that evening. They were: “Andy has a very good chance of surviving if he makes it through the night.”


The words were impossible to process. My wife and I struggled with the reality of the accident for 24 hours – from shock, to disbelief, to immense emotional pain. In the early hours of December 25 – Christmas Day – my wife, Anna, posted a message on her Facebook profile. It simply said, “Andy has been in an accident. Please God, let him live.”

From that moment on, the outpouring of support for Andy from family, friends and even complete strangers is what kept up our strength for the next three weeks in the hospital. We received hospital visits daily, meals for our family and enough words of encouragement to last a lifetime. The support came from school teachers, church friends, our Murrayhill Little League baseball community, the doctors and nurses at Doernbecher, and so many others. In particular, his Aunt Peggy (who ultimately succumbed to breast cancer at age 36 – six months after Andy’s accident) was a tremendous source of inspiration and comfort as they both battled their own situations.

When Andy was released from the hospital we were told his recovery could take up to two years or longer. Over the last 18 months he has endured more doctor’s visits than any kid deserves and has been through at least 100 physical therapy sessions. He went from bed, to wheelchair, to use of a walker, and then slowly to unassisted walking and now running.

His progress is a testament to his positive attitude, his “never give up” mentality, and his physical therapist (Kandice at ADAPT Training), who gave him the strength and encouragement on the rare days he couldn’t find it himself.

Andy is now back to playing with friends, hitting baseballs and shooting jumpers on the basketball court. Working with Nike and OHSU Doernbecher as a Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designer has been a wonderful time of reflection and healing for Andy and for our entire family as we continue to remain “Grass Strong.”

Learn more about “Grass Strong” and how the Grass family’s community rallied around them here (via KOIN News). Then, get to know 11-year-old Andy and the rest of this year’s incredible Doernbecher Freestyle patient-designers. We hope we’ll see you at this year’s collection reveal and auction on October 28!

Laundry detergent packets: convenient or catastrophic?

If I could describe the emotion in one word surrounding my first pediatric ingestion admission, it would be fear. On all levels. We were admitting a 3-year-old male after he accidentally ingested a laundry detergent packet. There was fear of the complications, but most notable, there was fear of the unknown. The toxic effects of laundry packet ingestions at that time were minimally understood. This was a new phenomenon. And as a newly minted resident, I also had a sense of uncertainty and fear.

In true first-year resident fashion, I went to the quickest, most reliable online resource available to me. I wanted to be prepared for all possible complications. As one would expect, I had the usual first-year resident jitters, however, my nervousness grew as I continued reading down the page. I had heard about laundry detergents packets; they were deemed as convenient and innovative without the mess. Laundry detergent packets, however, took on a new meaning that evening.

If ingested, I read, the highly concentrated packets can lead to vomiting, oral burns and swelling, respiratory distress and even respiratory failure – not to mention the neurologic impacts such as seizures, lethargy and, worst-case, coma. On the other hand, if the package breaks, they are likely to explode in the child’s face with risk of corneal abrasion and damage to one’s vision. The following day, my patient underwent an urgent upper endoscopy revealing a significant esophageal burn carrying the life-long risk of esophageal scarring. Unfortunately, that evening was not my first encounter with the hazards of laundry detergent packets.


The above story is a common one and one that has been echoed around the country. Ever since their introduction to the U.S. marketplace in 2012, laundry packet exposures have occurred at astonishing rates. In 2014, Smith et al. published a study in the Journal of Pediatrics outlining the trends in laundry packet exposures and risks associated with such. Over the course of one year (March 2012 to April 2013), there were more than 17,000 laundry packet exposures [1]. This represented a more than 600 percent increase in the number of monthly exposures. A subsequent article published by the same authors describes similarly daunting figures with a 17 percent increase in laundry packet exposures in the following year, 2013 through 2014 [2]. This 17 percent increase is despite mutually agreed upon voluntary safety standards by manufacturers. Of most concern, the majority of these exposures are occurring in young toddlers under the age of 3. Not only are these packets easily accessible, they are brightly colored and bite-sized; the perfect combination for a newly walking, explorative toddler.

As I enter into the third and final year of my pediatric residency training and prepare for a career in pediatric gastroenterology, this problem has taken on a meaning of its own. I have come to understand the role of advocacy and the inherent responsibility we as pediatricians carry to educate parents and families. Herein lies the spark for our most recent efforts at OHSU: a call to action to Pass on Packets and buy traditional laundry detergent for those with children under the age of 6 years. While this endeavor feels insurmountable, we are banding together with fellow pediatricians nationwide to disseminate this message, with the hopes of driving change and saving lives. Change must begin somewhere, and I hope that somewhere is in Portland. On June 7, Doernbecher is launching a social media campaign to #PassOnPackets – and we hope you’ll join us! (Details below.)


Katelyn M. Saarela
Resident in Pediatrics
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital



How to participate in #PassOnPackets:

Developed at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, “Pass on Packets” aims to raise awareness of the health risks associated with commercially available detergent packets.

Take the pledge to pass on packets by sharing one (or more!) of the below infographics on the social media platform(s) of your choice and use the #PassOnPackets hashtag. Also, join us from 11 a.m. to noon PDT on Tuesday, June 7 for a #LaundryPackets Twitter chat, hosted by @PreventChildInj.

Facebook/Twitter graphics (click to download):












Instagram graphics:











Access more graphics and resources here.

Graphics courtesy of Carolyn Kach

Studies cited
[1] Valdez AL, Casavant MJ, Spiller HA, Chounthirath T, Xiang H, Smith GA. Pediatric exposure to laundry detergent pods. Pediatrics. 2014;134(6):1127-35.

[2] Davis MG, Casavant MJ, Spiller HA, Chounthirath T, Smith GA. Pediatric Exposures to Laundry and Dishwasher Detergents in the United States: 2013-2014. Pediatrics. 2016;137(5)

Marijuana safety

The Oregon Poison Center at OHSU has seen a significant increase in the number of reported marijuana exposures in the past three years. To help ensure the safety of all Oregonians, the poison center has developed the following safety recommendations around marijuana products:

  • Keep marijuana products out of the reach of children
    • In Oregon, the use of marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older.
    • All marijuana products, medicinal or recreational, should be locked up and kept away from children. This is especially important with marijuana edibles, which are easily mistaken for regular baked goods or candy.
    • Educate your family about various marijuana products and their effects, even if you do not use them. A friend or neighbor may inadvertently leave their belongings within a child’s reach.
  • Understand edible marijuana dosage
    • Marijuana edibles can have a high potency, but may take longer to have an effect – up to 3 hours. To avoid overconsumption, users should take a slow approach and start with small doses.
    • In Oregon, a single serving of THC – the active ingredient in marijuana – is 5 milligrams. However, much like regular food items, marijuana-infused products may offer multiple servings. Users should carefully read product labels to avoid overconsumption.
    • THC may negatively interfere with some prescription drugs. Before consuming, users should consult their pharmacist or doctor to determine possible prescription drug interactions with marijuana and marijuana products.
  • Recognize the symptoms of overconsumption
    • The health impacts of marijuana overconsumption vary, and children are likely to be more susceptible to the effects than their adult counterparts. Signs of overuse may range from dry mouth and disorientation to mental health issues, racing heart rates, difficulty breathing or even coma.
    • If you suspect symptoms of accidental child exposure, or adult overconsumption, immediately contact the Oregon Poison Center at OHSU: 1-800-222-1222.



From patient to med student: Shira’s Doernbecher story

Below, Shira Einstein, a third-year medical student at the OHSU School of Medicine, shares her powerful Doernbecher story.

Many of us who decide to go into the medical field do so bearing scars. Mine happens to be about 1-inch-long under my left collarbone, where a port-a-cath was placed nine years ago in order to administer my IV chemotherapy treatments.

I was a freshman in high school when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage 2A. After months of frustrating symptoms and an MRI scan, I sat in a meeting room with my parents on either side of me and a team of oncologists on the 10th floor of OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital on March 9, 2007, I was told I had cancer. One of the people in the room was Dr. Linda Stork, who continues to be a blessing in my life.

As many of my friends and family members would attest, I am obnoxiously optimistic and positive. If you want someone to mope with about the deep dark troubles of the world I am not your girl.

That’s how I dealt with cancer. I swept the fear, pain, anxiety and confusion under the rug to deal with at a later time. This was, for the time being, a helpful coping mechanism for 15-year-old bald cancer patient me, who tried to hold onto every piece of sunshine during those dark months. My family, friends, nurses and doctors caught onto this strategy. They also did not take long to realize that I was extremely curious about the science and medicine of my disease. My treatments became lessons about cells and the human body.

Dr. Linda Stork and Shira

I also recognized that I had incredible privilege to have access to excellent medical care, an understanding that is painfully validated each time I travel to impoverished communities locally and globally, witnessing the suffering that others experience under similar circumstances.

There was only one journey for me to embark on, I decided. I was going to become a doctor.

This August I will officially be eight years cancer free! I am finishing up my second year of medical school at OHSU, and celebrate being healthy each day by striving to learn as much as possible and provide compassionate care to each patient I have the privilege of meeting. In the same rooms where I once was the patient, it is now my turn to provide information, strength, and hope when I can. For me, being a cancer survivor comes with a responsibility to love my life and to invest in the health of others. It is a privilege to embark on a career path where I will have that opportunity each day!

LLS Woman of the Year: Shira!

LLS Woman of the Year: Shira!


The battle of a lifetime

National Cancer Survivors Day is a celebration for those who have survived, an inspiration for those recently diagnosed, a gathering of support for families and an outreach to the community. Below, Elaine Brockhage shares her Doernbecher story and how her diagnosis at age 12 continues to impact her life today.

Cancer is something you fight. The patient himself fights. The patient’s family fights. The family’s friends fight. Even good Samaritan strangers join in the battle. When I was 12, I got diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and out of all the advice I got (both the good and the questionable) one theme rang true: to fight.

“Fight like superwoman.” they told me.

“Fight like a flower, growing out of cement.”

“Fight like a survivor; fight for your life.”

So I fought, and so did those around me. Of course, I must admit that I wasn’t always aware of this raging war. First, I was so drugged out half the time that I didn’t really know what was happening. Second, I was not thinking about the fact that I needed to fight. I was thinking about how I didn’t feel good, and wanted to feel better. I was thinking about returning to my former life, exactly as I had left it.

Treatment lasted a little bit over a year, and then I went into remission, and then survivorship. For my follow up care, I go to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. I’m 20 now, and enrolled full time at George Fox University. A lot of the time, it feels like I lead sort of a double life. I am a college student, dealing with stress that comes from being in school, meeting (or not meeting) homework deadlines, and learning how to live with roommates. The other part of me goes back to the hospital for check-ups and deals with the post effects of treatment (messed-up balance, decreased brain function from the radiation, and unstable eyes, to name a few).

Half of me is so grateful and blessed to be alive and walking, able to see things with single, 3-D vision. I can learn things formerly deemed impossible for brain cancer survivors to learn, and I have the ability to go places where we couldn’t have gone before.

But the other half of me is bereaved and hollow. I struggle with some things that other people never will, and I feel overcome by self-pity. I remember other kids who were in the hospital with me, and guilt sets in. And these feelings are difficult to voice, because they are often perceived as wrong, and met with criticism.

And I’m fighting against this second half of me. I fight against envy and grief, feelings of isolation and paranoia. I fight to find out who the new, post-cancer Elaine is, and I fight to accept her. I feel this fight more than I ever did when I had cancer, and like anyone who is facing a difficulty, it’s important to remember what keeps me going and why I don’t just give up.

I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think there are three main things. One of them is my faith, which gives me direction and a goal. The second is other people, because when I can laugh and have a good time with someone who is close to me, or listen and learn from someone else’s story, then I know that I am living. The last one is my attitude. It’s when I can take steps to help myself, and when I can look past the troubles that I am facing now, and on to something better. And then I know that even though this battle is far from over, it will still be won.



‘Story Beads’ help tell oncology patients’ stories at Doernbecher

At Doernbecher, every bead has a story. Strung together, these beads take on an even greater meaning: helping oncology patients conceptualize, cope with and share their cancer journeys.

The Story Bead Program began at Doernbecher in 2003 and is supported by the Doernbecher Child Life program.

Every year, there are about 250 newly diagnosed cancer patients treated at Doernbecher. If a child is interested in participating in the Story Bead Program, they are given an opportunity to capture their own medical journey – one bead at a time.

Each “starter string” begins with a bead symbolizing the patient’s unit and letter beads spelling out the patient’s name. From there, they add beads that represent their procedures, their milestones and their emotions along the way. Some examples:

  • A crab bead: Making someone smile
  • A purple heart bead: A transfer to the ICU
  • A blue bead: A sleepover in the hospital
  • A light green bead: A good day
  • A yellow bead: A bad day

Patients can also receive beads for specific procedures, “pokes” and transplants.

The Story Bead Program is intended to record the milestones of the treatment process. It can be a long and difficult journey, and the beads are a tangible way of acknowledging the challenges along the way.

“There is a personal transformation that happens when the joy of creating becomes larger than the pain,” said Peggy Adams, a Child Life specialist who helps oversee the program. “The Story Beads become a badge of patients’ accomplishments.”

Some of the beads were added by request: For example, a patient suggested adding the clock bead to symbolize patience. Another patient asked for a frog bead to celebrate learning to swallow pills.

Another patient suggested replacing the “hair falling out” bead, which used to be small and brown, with a big, bright orange bead with a smiling face to represent something that is a “BIG deal.”

When they go back to school, patients receive an apple bead to commemorate the milestone. Some even bring their story beads with them to show-and-tell to help their friends and classmates understand what their treatment process was like.

Many patients continue to add beads to their story when they come in for visits after therapy has finished.

“Our patients make their stories as they go,” said Kathy Perko, a pediatric nurse practitioner who helped bring the program to Doernbecher. “The beads help tell every individual child’s story.”

Sometimes, it helps grown-ups understand the child’s experience better, too. Kathy remembers a 6-year-old patient who was discussing her “bad day” beads, one of which represented her leukemia recurrence.

“She said, ‘One time I was crabby with my mom. Another time my cancer came back. And another time I just had a rough day.’ Her way of thinking about what a bad day was is pretty humbling – it really puts things back in perspective,” Kathy said.

Meet Dr. Maggie Stoeckel

We sat down with pediatric psychology fellow Maggie Stoeckel, Ph.D., to learn more about her role at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and how she and her team work together to help patients and families.

What do you do at OHSU Doernbecher? 

I’m completely embedded in the GI service and am available for all patients who have any kind of psychosocial needs. My primary role is working with kids that have chronic illnesses – the patients I see the most have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic abdominal pain, liver disease or encopresis.

As kids are growing up, it’s hard to manage chronic illnesses on top of normal developmental challenges. As a result, our patients can be vulnerable to depression and anxiety and might experience difficulty taking medication or difficult family dynamics. My job is to see the patient and family as a whole and address all of their needs.

What’s unique about this role? 

We have a multidisciplinary team that consists of GI providers (including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical assistants, a social worker and a dietitian) and we work together on a daily basis in clinic. Our goal is to provide holistic care.

I really enjoy working in a multidisciplinary team; we’re always learning from one another and it makes it exciting to come to work every day. No two days are the same!

What’s your favorite part of your job? 

Just seeing the patients every day – it’s really rewarding to see kids smiling after going through some significant challenges with their health.

What encouragement would you give to patients and families? 

It’s normal to have strong emotions around chronic illness. I also want families to know I’m here as a resource in the good times and the bad times. Prevention is really important – we do so much better with preventing crises (as opposed to intervening when things get really bad). That’s one reason why it’s beneficial to have an integrated model – families meet me from the get-go and know that I’m part of the team.

Doernbecher Best in the Country U.S. News & World Report


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