Whitney Young Health serves over 19,000 patients per year – almost half of those being children under the age of 18. Providing quality healthcare to such a high volume of patients, especially younger ages where the health habits they learn now will affect them later on in life, is no easy feat. Our pediatrics team, led by Dr. Deborah Vasquez, Director of Pediatrics, is not only filled with talented providers and nurses, but people who truly care about the families they help and hope to make a positive difference in their healthcare and their lives.
Dr. Vasquez has been a part of the WYH staff since 2013. I sat down with Dr. Vasquez, to discuss how the woman from a first generation American family who grew up in Washington Heights in New York City came into her current role at Whitney Young Health.
1. What inspired you to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician?
I’ve always wanted to be a doctor – since I was very young and I enjoy working with children and teens so the decision to go into pediatrics was easy.
2. What led you to working at Whitney Young Health?
Prior to moving to Albany with my family, I worked in a program that provided medical care to children living in family and domestic violence shelters in NYC. I also completed my Pediatrics training at Jacobi Hospital which is a municipal hospital in the Bronx. Caring for under-served populations is where I think I do my best work. Whitney Young is a perfect match for me!
3. What has been your favorite patient experience so far at Whitney Young Health?
I love the patient diversity at our center. I am amazed at how many different languages are spoken by our families. Coming from NYC, I had no idea how culturally diverse the Capital District is.
4. What has been your biggest challenge and reward as a pediatrician?
Advocating for my patients. There are many barriers to getting the services and care that many of our children need. Language, health literacy and socioeconomic barriers limit many parents' ability to advocate for their children. Collaborating with parents and helping them feel and become empowered to help their children is extremely rewarding.
5. Do you think community health centers like Whitney Young Health are necessary? If so, why?
Absolutely! Part of our mission is to provide quality healthcare without regard to income. We serve as a medical home for many people in our community. And many of our staff understand and appreciate that mission. Many of us could not do what we do without FQHCs like WYH.
6. What do you think is the biggest issue regarding child health today? Is there a solution?
Access to care. While meeting the demand for primary care services is a challenge, getting specialty care is much harder, particularly for children on Medicaid and CHIP. We often have to help families navigate and change managed care plans before they can access services. And then the appointment waiting list can be several months long. I don’t have an easy solution - Our current system allows for doctors and insurance companies to deny services and treatments just because of the plan chosen by the family. In addition, when there is a problem, navigating and changing plans is not simple.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to parents, what would that be?
Children need fresh fruits and veggies, daily exercise, time outside to appreciate nature. But most importantly they to know they are special and loved.
8. How do you think we can encourage young children to become interested in working in health care?
Not only is it important to teach the value of education, children need to be given the tools to help them succeed academically. Once given the opportunity to succeed many of those who love working with people will be naturally drawn to and feel motivated to work in healthcare.