This article is part of a video series with Dr. Changa Kurukularatne, a specialist in infectious diseases and internal medicine; he is a father of four. Dr. Changa has worked in multiple countries from the U.S. to New Zealand and Singapore.
Dr. Linnea: With four children you have developed so much experience also on the field…I only have three but I can just imagine.
Dr. Changa: Yeah, it’s only three, but three is a lot. So honestly, I think nothing can supplant the firsthand experience you have as a parent when you…whereas a young family and a lot of the time you have like a mother’s instinct or a father’s instinct. And there’s a lot of value that I put in it not only as a parent but also as a physician. When I see young parents a lot of times, I would ask them, “What do you think? Do you have any clue?”
Because their gut feeling and their input is tremendously valuable and it’s sometimes better than 20 different lab tests. So, anytime we deal with the little people’s health, it should be a very much a collaboration between the parents and providers because the science will only get you so far. And then there’s the art form and instincts that really, really play an important role.
Dr. Linnea: That’s extremely important and interesting to hear, especially for us, for our audience and moms, you know, they feel like they’re the chief medical officer of their families.
Dr. Changa: Yes, and they should be.
Dr. Linnea: And sometimes they have a lot of support from their spouse, sometimes they feel that it’s more on their shoulders. So, it’s very important, I think, to find health providers that really trust mother’s instinct, and really take into account their perspective.
Dr. Changa: That’s very important, even from a scientific perspective. So, if a family comes to see me, I may have 30 minutes of contact time with them. So, my data points are limited to that finite period of time. But then you look at the mother’s experience with that child, that’s 24/7 for however many years. And so, that sets the baseline against which we compare everything else.
So, even if you approach it scientifically, you’ll be really doing a disservice if you don’t take into account what happens at home and what mom or dad says. And this is, you know, I’m not encouraging that doctors leave the burden of diagnosis to parents, no, but it is a very crucial part of the entire medical plan to incorporate those views. And the good physician should be able to put that information in perspective and make decisions along the way in a collaborative manner.
And, we always try to remember that, while I know the science, while I may have the experience, the person who really knows that child is the parent. And then forgetting that would be disastrous. I think this is a very important collaboration between parents and provider.
Would you like more advice from doctors who are navigating parenting like you? Check out our round-up of 53 tips for family health from doctor mamas.