Editor’s note: Today, MyBrownBaby is so very pleased to debut “Dr. Ivor Is In,” a new monthly column by Ivor Horn, MD, a Washington, D.C.-based pediatrician who will lend her knowledge, expertise, and personal experience as both a children’s physician and mom of two brown babies to help MyBrownBaby readers raise healthy kids. Dr. Ivor is super smart, ridiculously charming and way passionate about sharing tips and tricks we can use to help our babies get and stay healthy, fit and happy which makes her all the way awesome. MyBrownBaby is lucky to have her! Show Dr. Ivor some love in the comment section, and if you’ve got questions about how to raise a happy, healthy child, fire away Dr. Ivor just may answer in an upcoming column.
By DR. IVOR HORN
I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, the youngest of three kids. We were your typical working class family one paycheck, major illness or incident from being homeless. In fact, when a house fire made our home uninhabitable, we were homeless. I didn’t learn that fact until I was working with homeless families during medical school and discovered that having to double up with relatives because you had no place to stay was defined as homeless. In retrospect, I think the fact that no one told me I was poor or homeless or whatever definition you want to give it gave me the freedom to not put boundaries on what I could do. For that reason, I try as hard as I can to help my patients remove the boundaries that they give themselves or that parents, their communities and media images saddle on them.
For most academic pediatricians in my situation, it would be much easier to work in the hospital-based clinic, mostly teaching and supervising residents (doctors in training). But I took the unusual route of researching and keeping a community-based clinical practice. Why? I love my patients. The families I see experience challenging home lives a lot like that which I experienced growing up; I can look a kid in the eye and say with conviction that I know exactly what he is going though that I know what it’s like to have parents who live from paycheck to paycheck, I know what it’s like to have your phone or your electricity turned off. I also practice because I know how important it is for my patients to see someone who looks like them and who tells them, I've been where you are and there is no excuse for you to not reach for the best.
My research focuses on health communication with minority families; it is all about finding ways for pediatricians to help families like the ones I see in my practice and the one my family used to be get the best quality healthcare, regardless of their zip code or their parents’ level of education or income. That process has many names patient empowerment, patient activation, patient advocacy.
I call it giving parents and their children a healthy start.
I love my practice and I love my research, but I’ve come to realize that all the things I’ve learned through my research has been going into a medical journal that will never be read by the families I’m trying to help. Yes, it’s improved my resume, but it hasn’t done squat for the families I serve. I could use the information with the few families that I see in practice, but what about all those other folks? I wondered, how could I share that information beyond the exam room?
As fate would have it, my sister-in-law introduced me to a wonderful writer named Denene Millner, who would ask me for input on articles she was writing for Parenting. It felt great to share a pediatrician tidbit here and there. Then, one of her articles was picked up by the Today Show, and they asked us to appear live. The experience was awesome, but above that, I had a chance to chat with Denene and was introduced to the world of social media. Since then, I must admit, I have become a sponge. I have lurked and learned. I’ve looked at parenting blogs, medical blogs, funny blogs, serious blogs. I’ve followed folks on Twitter. I’ve seen good stuff and not so good stuff. Folks promoting themselves and their egos. Folks helping others. But nothing for the kids and the families that I see. Nothing that explained all the medical information out there in a way that mattered for families like mine the one I grew up in and the ones I care for.
So here I am. Putting it out there for children of color. Hoping to use my knowledge and experience to educate and illuminate, to divide fact from fiction, and to help all parents, but especially parents of children of color, as best I can. So let us know what you want to hear: Dr. Ivor is in.
[Flickr credit: CleverCupCakes for Creative Commons]
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.