Spotlight from Dr. Robert Needlman

July 2024

Residency, like infancy, is a time when experiences have a special power to restructure the brain. As a third-year resident, I attended the Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics which was in Boston that year. I remember nothing of the conference, except the feeling that it was so cool to spend three days at a hotel thinking about child development in the company of brilliant and committed colleagues.

I hope that the residents who attended the Reach Out and Read Leadership Conference in May came away with the same excitement at having found a professional community. Some 36 residents submitted applications. Reading them I was reminded of “Millions of Cats”: Each one seemed more wonderful than the last.

In person, the energy and intellectual quickness of the selected few came into sharper focus. They had questions; and they had ideas, about Reach Out and Read for families facing special adversity, but also about Reach Out and Read in suburban settings, and in subspecialty settings. I got the sense, too, that they were paying close attention to us older folk, and I like to think that we responded to their scrutiny the way Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel did— by digging harder and faster.

Having the resident leaders at the May meeting was surely a gift to the organization, showing us that Reach Out and Read has room to grow in diverse directions and the youthful passion that will take us into the future.

Clinician Spotlight: Pamela Chung

April 2024

Dr. Pamela Chung, the Medical Director for Reach Out and Read Texas, first learned about Reach Out and Read in a rural health center near the Texas panhandle. She had done her medical school training and her residency in family medicine in Canada, then moved to Texas and found herself at a clinic where her practice was about 50 percent children. One of her colleagues, an NP who was familiar with ROR, told her: “You’ve never heard of ROR; you’re from Canada; I need you to do the online training so we can sign up for it.” Reach Out and Read gave Dr. Chung a new model for how to relate to the families she cared for, creating bonds with the child, the parents, the whole family. “It turned into a really lovely relationship with the families. We based our interactions on talking about the times kids were in their laps, how they were relating, how the family was doing.”

After three years at that clinic, Dr. Chung moved to Houston; she is now Associate Program Director of the Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program. Bringing ROR to that residency clinic became her pet project, and she was able to get the program up and running within her first year there. This year, the clinic celebrated giving out their 3000th book.

Dr. Chung has enjoyed lobbying at the state capital as ROR Medical Director for Texas: “I get to take a passion project and explain how it relates to legislative work — and I’ll step out of my comfort zone to go to the capitol for a day because it is a passion project.” She speaks with enthusiasm about the diversity of practices in Texas and of the skill that Affiliate Director Jocelyn McConnell, MEd, has shown in bringing such a large state together.

She is also passionate about crafting — sewing, cross stitch, quilting — and gets together with fellow physicians from all specialties to make small pieced quilts for NICU babies.

As a family physician, Dr. Chung is often the doctor for the parents and family members as well as the child. She reflected on one family: She cared for the pregnant mother, partnering for prenatal visits with the physician who would handle the delivery. She also gave the mother a book and talked with an older sibling. Dr. Chung said that books “make such a comfortable way to ask about the whole family, without changing focus — it all just seems to roll together: I remember when you were reading to baby in the womb. It becomes a shared memory with the whole family, but it also opens discussion about the family: to ask mom how her mental health is or how the older sibling is integrating.” That’s her family medicine perspective on Reach Out and Read — that it offers a comfortable way to discuss the family structure and to think about the ways that other people fit into the family environment, all centered around books and reading