Meet Dr. Esther Yang

CHOC Children’s wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Esther Yang, a pediatric psychiatrist.

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended UCLA for undergrad, Loma Linda University for medical school, and University of California, Irvine for both my psychiatric residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: Two months.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: I am interested in cultural psychiatry, the integration of mental health and spirituality, and implementing a holistic approach in treatment by working with therapists and other providers to integrate care. During fellowship training, I received a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to work with minority communities in building awareness about mental health.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Depression, anxiety and ADHD. It seems to be much harder today to be a teen than it was ten years ago with social media, bullying, and increased responsibilities.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you/your division at CHOC? 

A: In the psychiatry clinic at CHOC, virtually every patient that we see is also seen by a therapist in the same clinic, making it possible to integrate care, and all of our doctors are fellowship trained in child and adolescent psychiatry.  There are many resources and more on the horizon with the opening of the inpatient unit and the intensive outpatient program.

Q: What excites you most about CHOC’s mental health initiative? 

A: It’s an exciting time at CHOC with the upcoming opening of the inpatient mental health unit, programs such as the intensive outpatient program and new clinics – all coming at a time when there continues to be a shortage in providers and services in psychiatric care. It inspires me to work at a place that is committed to the treatment of children and advancing mental health care.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC? 

A: I love the concept of a hospital that is dedicated to the treatment of children and that every single person shares that dedication.  I’ve had personal experiences with my children being patients at CHOC prior to working here and it was a very positive experience where we felt genuinely taken care of.  I knew that if I ever had the opportunity to work here, it would be a privilege.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pediatric psychiatrist? 

A: I decided to become a pediatric psychiatrist my senior year in high school after hearing a psychiatrist talk about mental health and the great stigma that exists in the minority communities during a lecture at our church. I’ve never regretted this decision and it’s been an incredible journey. I enjoy listening to everyone’s unique stories and working to break stigmas and barriers to access to care, which continue to exist.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?

A: Honestly, I would probably be a stay-at-home mom. I love spending time with my family, doing crafts with my kids and cooking. I also believe that the key to healthy kids starts in the home, and my skills as a psychiatrist are sometimes useful at home when it comes to training and discipline.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests outside of psychiatry? 

A: I enjoy reading, baking, and crafting.

Q: What was the funniest thing a patient told you?

A: I told my therapy patient that I would have to transfer his care to another doctor because I was going on maternity leave.  He replied, “Oh, I thought you were fat or something.” I was nine months pregnant.

Meet Dr. Saeed Awan

CHOC Children’s wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Saeed Awan, a pediatric general and thoracic surgeon.

 Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended medical school at Khyber Medical College, in Pakistan. I completed my surgery residency at Memorial University of Newfoundland & Labrador, in Canada. I also completed two surgery fellowships, one at Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh, in United Kingdom, and another at Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, in Canada.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: All aspects of pediatric and neonatal surgery, especially minimal invasive surgery. I also have expertise in liver and bile duct surgery and special interest in gastroschisis sutureless closure.

Q: How many years have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: Three and a half years.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Inguinal and umbilical hernias, hydroceles, undescended testis, appendicitis, lumps and bumps, as well as complex congenital pediatric and neonatal conditions.

Q: Are there any new programs or developments within your specialty (at CHOC or in the broader field)?

A: I am leading the pediatric surgery outreach office at CHOC Children’s Health Center, Corona. We have seen gradual increase in referrals.

In the broader field, there has been remarkable advancement in minimally-invasive surgical procedures with similar or better results than open surgical procedures.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you/your division at CHOC?

A: We are group of dedicated and highly-trained pediatric surgeons who strive to provide excellent care to our patients. We make sure both parents and the patients are involved in the decision making. Being a father of four children, I treat my patients as I would like to have my own children treated.

In addition to our common surgical conditions, I treat complex neonatal and gastrointestinal conditions.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?

A: I’m inspired by our CHOC physicians, our excellent nursing and support staff, our wide range of subspecialists, as well as our state-of-the-art facility.

In our specialty, we meet a lot of children and the smile on their and their parents’ faces  after they have recovered from surgery, makes me very happy.

Q: Why did you decide to become a pediatric surgeon?  

A: I decided to become a pediatric surgeon when I was a third-year medical student. Pediatric general surgery is a field where you are able to take care of sick kids with a wide variety of surgical diseases. Although pediatric surgery is very challenging, it is very rewarding.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?

A: I might have been a pilot as I like travel.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: Travel, soccer and spending time with my children.

In the Spotlight: Wyman Lai, M.D.

A nationally-recognized pediatric cardiologist with expertise in fetal cardiology and non-invasive imaging for heart disease in fetuses and children has joined CHOC Children’s. Dr. Wyman Lai is the new medical director of echocardiography at CHOC; co-medical director of the CHOC Heart Institute, and assistant division chief of cardiology with CHOC Children’s Specialists.

“CHOC has a fabulous mix of state-of-the-art care, community presence, and academic achievement. I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues, who strive to provide the very best care available. The administrative staff at CHOC has also been extremely supportive. Together we are building a pediatric service that rivals any in the region, and we have our sights on even higher goals,” Dr. Lai says.

Dr. Lai’s passion for helping others inspired him to become a doctor. His original plan was to go into academic primary care pediatrics, and he majored in maternal and child health for his Master of Public Health degree. Early in his training, he switched to pediatric cardiology after becoming fascinated with what the pediatric cardiologists were doing.

“In pediatric cardiology, we are able to make a profound difference in the lives of our patients. With our surgical colleagues, we have made incredible advances in life-saving therapies over the past five decades,” Dr. Lai says. “The heart is an amazingly complex organ; it starts off as a simple tube, and it’s a wonder that it ever develops normally into a four-chambered pumping organ that delivers oxygen efficiently throughout our body.”

Dr. Lai attended medical school at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He completed his residency at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, followed by a pediatric cardiology fellowship at UCLA Medical Center, and later, a pediatric cardiology MRI fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Since joining CHOC, Dr. Lai has been treating patients with complex congenital heart disease. He is also treating patients with the full spectrum of heart conditions, from heart murmurs to chest pain and syncope.

Dr. Lai’s approach towards his patients and their families is to treat them like family members.

“As with all families, however, not everyone is the same,” he explains. “Some patients and parents want more medical information and some less. Some want to be very involved in the decision-making process and some not so much. My practice is to provide them with enough information and support, so they feel comfortable with the decisions they are making.”

Along with Drs. Nita Doshi and Pierangelo Renella, Dr. Lai is helping to build a great program in fetal cardiology at CHOC. He is also working with Dr. Renella to grow the congenital cardiac MRI program, including the use in non-invasive imaging for creating 3D heart models.

“We recently used a 3D cardiac MRI dataset to print several heart models that were used to assist in the planning of care for a child with complex congenital heart disease. Another area of innovation is our purchase of new patient monitoring software in the cardiovascular ICU that will help us to identify patients at risk for acute deterioration before it happens,” Dr. Lai says.

In April, Dr. Lai will serve as co-program director for an inaugural conference hosted by CHOC, Pacific Coast Fetal Cardiology 2017: An Interactive and Case-Based Educational Symposium, in Newport Beach. The conference supports CHOC’s efforts to improve the success of fetal cardiac screening in the region, he says.

Dr. Lai is a prolific author who has published numerous journal articles and chapters, and has contributed to several high-level textbooks utilized throughout the country. He has lectured extensively in the United States and internationally. Dr. Lai is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Society of Echocardiography, and American Academy of Pediatrics, among other professional organizations. In addition, he sits on the National Board of Echocardiography Board of Directors.

His ongoing academic interests include creating a reliable set of normal values for cardiovascular structures in newborns and children, developing pediatric cardiac MRI guidelines, and testing new cardiac MRI sequences.

In his spare time, Dr. Lai loves spending time with his family. He also enjoys swimming, biking and running. He hopes to run in this year’s Boston and New York marathons, which he has participated in the past. He is also attending classes for a health care executive MBA at UC Irvine.

For cardiology referral guidelines, click here. To refer a patient, call 888-770-2462. 

To contact Dr. Lai, please call 714-509-3939.

Occupational Therapy Celebrates 100 Years

By Lauren Francis, occupational therapist at CHOC Children’s

Occupational therapy is turning 100! The specialty’s roots formed in 1917 as “reconstruction aides” who helped rehabilitate wounded soldiers returning from battle in World War I. Today, occupational therapists apply a holistic approach to help children and adults engage in meaningful activities.

CHOC’s occupational therapists (OTs) are highly skilled and trained to help children of all ages who have unique needs. Some key components of OT are:

Feeding Specialists

CHOC’s occupational therapists help treat a wide range of feeding issues, including babies who have trouble with breast and bottle-feeding, children who have oral motor or sensory difficulties and cannot manage textures of food, and teenagers who may have had an injury or procedure that affected their ability to eat. OTs at CHOC are also highly skilled in specialty therapies such as feeding tube weaning and swallowing therapy.

Sensory & Developmental Specialists

CHOC’s occupational therapists have advanced expertise and techniques to offer children and families with an assortment of developmental challenges as well. From supporting a child to stay strong and active through chemotherapy to helping a child recover from a neurological disorder or brain injury, occupational therapy can be a crucial part of a multidisciplinary care team. Children who have difficulty with sensory processing, learning delays, challenges with self-care, visual motor or visual perceptual deficits, difficulty coordinating their arms and hands, or who aren’t meeting developmental milestones, can all be excellent candidates for occupational therapy intervention.

Parent/Caregiver Collaboration

Perhaps one of the greatest roles occupational therapists play is working with the parents and families of the children we serve. Parent education and involvement in therapy is an essential component to ensuring a child meets his or her goals. Through CHOC’s commitment to patient- and family-centered care, our OTs closely partner with parents to create individualized treatment plans, offer customized home programs unique to each child’s needs, and engage them in all aspects of care.

Preventative Care

CHOC OTs work tirelessly as part of an advanced team to screen children who may be at risk for developmental delays. They apply years of clinical experience and expertise along with standardized testing to assess a child’s movement, mobility, hand use, interaction with the environment, and feeding skills. For children who require a long hospital stay, OTs help provide developmentally appropriate stimulation to help each child continue to grow and develop during their hospital stay.

Learn more about rehabilitation services at CHOC.

 

Domnic Fernandez Joins CHOC as Director, Hyundai Cancer Institute

Domnic Fernandez has been named director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.  Working closely with hospital and physician leaders, he is responsible for advancing CHOC’s position as a leading destination for innovative pediatric and adolescent cancer treatments.

CHOC Children's

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC has a stellar reputation, including being ranked a top pediatric cancer program by U.S. News & World Report.  Its physicians, researchers and staff are dedicated to changing the future of cancer treatments: finding a cure and securing meaningful survivorship for our patients.  I am honored to be a part of this team, and look forward to helping continue to secure the brightest and healthiest futures for children,” said Domnic.

Fernandez joins CHOC from Adventist Healthcare, where he served as a vice president overseeing outpatient practices at four regional hospitals.  Service lines under his purview included primary care, urgent care, pediatrics, endocrinology, cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, neurology, electrophysiology and obstetrics/gynecology.  In addition to improving productivity and increasing referrals, he created a patient experience team that helped increase patient satisfaction scores by 22 percent.

Previously, Fernandez has worked in a variety of leadership positions at hospitals in Virginia and Minnesota.   His healthcare experience includes practice management, strategic planning, business development, revenue cycle management, physician and patient satisfaction initiatives, regulatory compliance, clinical outcomes and continuous process improvements, and marketing.  In addition to launching new clinics and managing practice acquisitions, he’s assumed responsibility for several electronic health record (EHR) go lives and optimizations.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, Fernandez completed the master’s in health care administration program at St. Xavier University in Chicago.  He is a member of the Medical Group Management Association and American College of Medical Practice Executives.

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute is a gem in our community, and I look forward to working with our subspecialists and referring community physicians to ensure children get the excellent care they need close to home,” stated Domnic.

Domnic can be reached at dfernandez@choc.org.