Seattle Mama Doc: A Blog by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson
This blog caters to one principle I’ve learned along the way: parents just want to do what is right. The desperate love we have for our children can shock us into good and sometimes bad decisions. I believe parents search for and sincerely desire simple answers to the How-What-Why-Who of parenting, the essence of doing right for their children. Often it’s not a simple, isolated situation, or one as complicated as it may feel. And, the abundance of online noise invokes fear in all of us when making decisions for our children. Over time, I hope to illuminate the reality that in pediatrics, doing less is often more. Prevention reigns.
Parents just want to do what is right.
It’s the defining what’s right that, on occasion, remains elusive. This blog, an attempt to help.
I’m a pediatrician and the mother of two young boys. I am also the Chief of Digital Innovation at Seattle Children’s hospital. I am passionate about improving the way media discusses pediatric health news and influences parents’ decisions when caring for their children. I’m an executive committee member of the Council on Communications and Media and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. I sit on the Board of Advisors for Parents Magazine and on the board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. I’m a weekly medical contributor with NBC affiliate KING 5 News in Seattle. I am also an advocate on the topic of vaccines and was named a 2017 CDC Flu Fighter. I was named to TIME Magazine’s Best Twitter Feeds of 2013. My first book, Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a Gold Award Recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards.
Here’s where this all started…
I was born and raised in Minnesota by a set of parents with vibrantly strong opinions, rigid rules, and big dreams. My mom was a professional musician and my father a lawyer. My mom made me wear lots of hand-me-downs from my brother and I remember having to eat food with no preservatives. My dad enforced the rules. Fortunately, I snuck some salty snacks along the way. And I made good friends over 13 years in suburban Minneapolis public schools. It was all fairly wholesome. I didn’t do many things wrong. Sometimes, I wonder why.
Just before my last year of high school, my parents picked up and moved to the tropical rainforest. They built an ecolodge and school to protect a Costa Rican rainforest preserve. That was transformative. To finish high school, I stayed behind in the United States with friends.
Many of my strongest opinions were formed during that alone time, away from family. It’s amazing what we come to understand when we’re still children.
I went to Kenyon College in rural Ohio, majoring in psychology, where I wrote an honor’s thesis about finding your voice. Some people think I found it a long time ago—it has taken years to learn how to be quiet! College was good to me; I learned how to listen, think and write while forging amazing friendships. When I left college, I wanted to do domestic service work so taught science and math for two years with Teach for America in a public, bilingual middle school in Oakland, California. That’s when I really grew-down learning what it was like to be a grown-up. I adored and reaped huge lessons from my students. It was a good reminder of my limited skill set at that time.
So, I returned to being a student and completed my doctorate (MD) along with a Master’s in Bioethics (MBE) in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania. Hot, humid city summers, somewhat cold winters and Philly’s effort to sustain “brotherly love” made me realize how much I craved the wider spaces of the West Coast. I plotted my return.
I landed in Seattle where the air smells different. Although the rain falls, when the sun comes out, it uncovers unparalleled beauty. It was the place to finally put down roots among people who are generally very nice to each other. I felt at home. I completed my pediatric residency training at Seattle Children’s and then began to practice pediatrics as a community-based pediatrician.
In clinic, I continue to learn from my patients and their parents every day. I think about them constantly. We laugh, sometimes we cry, and we work together to find the answers they need. Seattle is where I feel my most important work has begun and continues to unfold. Seattle is where I am continuing to learn how to be a pediatrician and how to be a mom.
Some accumulated letters:
- BA — Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Psychology, Kenyon College
- MD — Doctor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
- MBE — Masters in Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania
- FAAP — Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
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