La Rabida’s Dr. Anita Swamy on dad, rearing healthy children

Swamy (2)
Anita Swamy, M.D.
Pediatric Endocrinologist
Medical Director, The Chicago Children’s Diabetes Center at La Rabida

Please explain how you were inspired to make a decision to work in the health field as a career choice?
I was born in South India and moved to Boston when I was eight years old. In India, the sciences are emphasized and being a ‘doctor’ is the epitome of a perfect job.  I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and then when my father passed away due to complications of diabetes when I was 12, it just further reinforced my desire.

What are three challenges that health care professionals face in the African American community?
1. Trust. In general many people, especially minorities, don’t trust the medical field.  This is due to myriad reasons, including the Tuskegee experiment [an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural black men who thought they were receiving free health care].
2. Access. Not only African Americans, but there is lack of access to medical care in general.
3. Urgency.

Again this is not specific to one group but preventive care is not emphasized in general.  Folks tend not to go to the doctor until they are sick.

Describe your specialty and why you chose to focus on this area of health?
I was interested in endocrinology after losing my dad to type 2 diabetes. I was fascinated by what I learned after he died. I chose pediatrics because I wanted to be a role model and make a difference. The conditions we see are treatable, and we see a wide variety of conditions other than diabetes as well and finally, I like the fact that I can see children grow up. We become an extended part of their family in a way.

List three things children should give up in order to live a healthier life?
1. Screen time. Children need less screen time — both from television and handheld devices — and more physical activities.
2. Sugar. Most people don’t realize one can of soda equals 14 pounds (of additional weight) each year.
3. Processed foods. They just aren’t good for you.

Sleep plays what role in the health of a child?
When children sleep, it allows their bodies to reset. Children make growth hormone when they sleep as well. Well-rested children grow better and learn better. Sleep is vital.

Why is obesity a major concern for health professionals?
Obesity is the cause of so many issues, from diabetes to cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint problems, and even contributes to depression! With the proper education and commitment to our health, it can be prevented and that’s the key. 

How has technology helped you with patients?
Oh my goodness! We have glucose sensors that read sugar levels.  Some sensors ‘‘talk’’ to insulin pumps to automatically turn off the pump when it detects a low glucose. This is the first step toward a truly artificial pancreas, which is very exciting.

Also, the Internet allows me to communicate with my patients better.

Finish the sentences:

I am committed to providing …
The best care for my patients and empower them through great education.

Health and wellness are …
Critical to our existence. There is no point in making money and having things if you cannot enjoy them with people you love.

A great day for me at work results in … 
Helping my patients succeed, helping the ones who aren’t doing well and knowing I am a factor in improving their lives.

I attended …
Medical College of Pennsylvania, Hahnemann University

My hobbies are …
I love to cook and travel
I enjoy eclectic dishes from across the globe — Asian, Indian, lots of fish and turkey. No processed food.

Favorite vacation spots are …
International cities; Paris and Hong Kong, and anyplace warm and tropical or local bed and breakfast spots with my husband.

My favorite authors are …
For a light read, I like John Grisham and Patricia Conrad. I also love Richard Wright, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

My favorite person is …
My dad. He was a great person who was brilliant and always positive, even during our hardest struggles.  He had a wonderful energy and passion for life.  I am so fortunate to have had him as a father, even for the brief time that I did.


Munson Steed
Munson Steed

Founder and publisher of rolling out's parent company Steed Media Group.

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