Maryellen Flaherty-Hewitt, MD, a pediatrician, draws on her childhood experience of being a self-described “terrible patient” as a way to help put parents and children at ease during visits and examinations. “I always tell parents who apologize for their children’s behavior at office visits that they wouldn’t believe what I put my mother when I was younger,” Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt says. “I was so afraid of going for exams and shots.”
But Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt eventually grew out of those fears, helped in part by her own pediatrician, who took care of her from infancy through her teenage years. “She was kind and caring, and I always thought if I could be like her, that would be a good thing,” she says.
Growing up as an only child, Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt gravitated to other children. “My father noticed how much I liked other kids, and when I was 7, he said, ‘You should be a doctor someday.’ I thought of my pediatrician as a great role model right away.”
Today, Dr. Flaherty-Hewitt is medical director of Yale New Haven Hospital’s Pediatric Primary Care Center, where she values building relationships with families. “If a mother calls me with a question about her child, I know the whole family and where they are coming from,” she says. To her, there is no such thing as a silly question. “Whether it’s your first child or your sixth, that’s what we are here for and we never want parents to hesitate to call us,” she says.
She’s grateful when parents thank her at the end of a visit. “Whether it’s for listening to them or finding out what is wrong with their child, you feel like you are making a difference,” she says.