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Why Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Trying to figure out what kind of doctor you should become? Wondering what specialty you should choose? Then SheMD's Why Specialty Series is perfect for you! We're bringing you female physicians sharing WHY they chose their specialty. Today's post is on why Dr. Elnajjar chose the field of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and why Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is a great field for all.

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“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

— Frederick Douglass.

This quote represents one of the core reasons why most of the child psychiatrists pursued their career passionately!

Although in my case, it is quite interesting how those reasons could be the same challenging signs for me to think differently and ask myself “what does it take to be a good child psychiatrist?”

When I started getting more curious about this field, I asked many people around “what is your life as a child adolescent psychiatrist”, I often hear “you must like being around children'' or something along those lines, which made me feel more excited and drawn to the field . That was easy for me, as working around kids was always a dream of mine, especially after having my own, I became more confident about my ability to be a child psychiatrist! But later during my general psychiatry residency, I realized the job can be more challenging, if you actually enjoy being around kids!

During my training, talking to kids from different ages and backgrounds made me think: choosing this path is not just about what I want to do for the rest of my career, it is how I can feel the joy while I am doing so. It is about processing your emotions when a 6 years old kid is telling you “I don’t want to live anymore”, and how to explain your powerful role of supporting them during this tough journey. understand that sadness can be part of childhood and they don't have to go through this alone. The ability to normalize that childhood is not just playing in playgrounds and blowing bubbles and chasing butterflies.

I still remember how hard it was for me to tell a 7 years old kid in the emergency room what my job is and why I am seeing him. Imagine a stranger walking into a child saying “hello, my name is Dr. E, I am a psychiatrist!”, I knew I can’t say that, not without imagining the poor little boy's reaction “E as an Elephant!”. I knew talking to kids is different but talking to kids about emotions for me it was a bit difficult, but when I eventually learned how to use the analogy from the movie “Inside Out” using different colors and images for different emotions, and talking about how emotions change in our brains in a fun way, it was a blast! I love it and so did the kids! That paradigm shifted me from being the doctor who talks about things we fear to actually be a very cool person.

I believe in early intervention and prevention in mental illness, and I think that addressing mental health problems properly in children can lead to better adult quality of life, and I wanted to be one of those few doctors who do so!

All the above are add-on factors to the real reason I choose this speciality; the truth is the majority of the credit goes to my number one mentors in life” my kids”. Being their parent is the most valuable experience I would ever wish to have, to be certain about pursuing this career. Knowing how providing love and care can protect our kids from being vulnerable to mental illness by adding on to their resilience!

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