Mention Children's Hospital, and our reflex is to think of children or their parents. A toddler saved from death's door. A mother or father relieved of round-the-clock worry. A family kept whole.
But Children's Hospital is a school, too, helping to train a special kind of student: pediatric residents.
These are young doctors who are putting the finishing touches on their pediatric training. They chose pediatrics from among dozens of medical subspecialties. And they chose Children's Hospital for their residencies from among dozens of similar hospitals elsewhere in the U.S.
For Doug Baker and Virginia Moyer, neither choice was an accident. They picked pediatrics because it was enjoyable and challenging. But they picked Children's for the final phase of their training because, according to them, it has a special atmosphere.
Last week, my associate, Rob Graettinger, spent an afternoon over coffee discussing the life of a Children's Hospital resident with Drs. Baker and Moyer. This is his report:
"Doug Baker began his residency at a general hospital in Pennsylvania, where he freely admits the staff 'did not get along as well.' But from the beginning of his stay at Children's, Baker says he has seen 'a special kind of hospital.'
" 'You have a first-class academic center with beautiful facilities and state-of-the-art technology,' Baker said. 'But most important, you have a staff that gets along well together.'
"Why choose Children's over a more general hospital with pediatric care facilities?
"Primarily, Baker said, because the guiding philosophy of this hospital is that 'kids are special.'
" 'We offer first-class medical care, but in doing that, the child is treated and respected as an individual, and his life style is disrupted as little as possible.'
"The staff at Children's does this by keeping patients on a normal schedule, clearly separating play time and treatment time, Baker said. 'All treatment is performed in a treatment room,' Baker said, 'never in a patient's bedroom.'
"But, according to Baker, what ultimately separates Children's from other general hospitals is its capacity to deliver the 'total pediatric experience.'
"That can be a busy business. For example, the beeper that Baker carries went off three times inside a minute as we talked. But Baker was unruffled.
" 'We are performing a service with an object in mind,' he said. 'Total patient care.' But the beauty of Children's, he said, is that because of the atmosphere at the hospital and the attitude of the staff, 'the kids don't realize it.'
"Virginia Moyer thought for a long time that she wouldn't pursue pediatrics, because 'women tend to be pushed' into it. But during her third and fourth years of medical school, she changed her mind.
" 'I'd been through all of the other clerkships,' she said, 'and I realized after my first day of pediatrics that this is where I should be.'
"Why was she attracted to Children's? 'Because it's a hospital for children,' she said. 'Kids can play while they work here . . . It's a friendly warm program and that rubs off on the patients. The kids can't help but get better care.'
" 'We institutionally practice that which has been carried out by established family practitioners. Know thy patient and know thy parent.'
"Moyer recently became a parent herself, so she is understandably attuned to the ways in which parents are treated at a hospital, not just the ways in which children are treated. She has found that Children's considers parents a critical part of the patient-care equation.
" 'We have to be able to work with the parents,' she said. 'We push for the parents to stay overnight .
" 'All of the people who come in here -- the kids and the parents -- are changed by the experience. We try as best as we can to make it a positive change . . . although we are not always able to do that.'
"But the main reason Virginia Moyer feels so positive about Children's Hospital is the same reason you should.
" 'The first concern,' she said, 'is patient care.' "
To contribute to the campaign:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20071.