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Dr. Jason Richerson, medical director of our Evaluation Center (emergency department).
Back when he was starting high school in Florida, Dr. Jason Richerson filled out a career planning form. He wanted to be a pediatrician.
When he graduated from high school, faced with another form, he again wrote that he wanted to be a pediatrician.
He had worked with kids at church and in the community and he was good at science, so it seemed a logical career path.
Now after college and medical school at the University of South Alabama, followed by a pediatric residency and work in the Evaluation Center at Children’s and Women’s Hospital, he has been named medical director of the Evaluation Center — and he’s delighted.
Unlike adults whose lifestyles lead to health problems, “Kids aren’t doing it to themselves. They’re at the mercy of their parents. I’d just rather deal with the little ones.”
And he loves the “high acuity, high volume” caseload he meets in the Evaluation Center, which handles everything except Level 1 trauma,
“I used to think I’d like to watch the kids grow up,” the way a pediatrician in private practice might. “I had to trade that for this,” he says.
But it’s worth it.
In ordinary clinics, a pediatrician gets to build relationships with children and their families. “We get to save the kids,” Richerson says.
But still the job offers a chance to connect repeatedly with some patients — cancer patients, for example, who may come to the hospital repeatedly.
Not precisely an emergency room, the Evaluation Center also treats many children who’s parents have no way to tap into Mobile’s over-taxed pediatric practices. While the center is busy with injuries — especially football and soccer injuries — and asthma and seizures and such, its staff also sees children with ear infections and colds and other less life-threatening problems.
And when he talks about a high-volume practice, he’s not exaggerating. Last year the Evaluation Center saw 35,000 patients. During RSV and flu season, the staff treats more than 100 children a day.
And its unique role gives the staff a wonderful opportunity to help make the world a safer and healthier place for kids. Richerson is working with hospital public relations staff to put together public service campaigns on swim safety, car safety, bed safety and more. After discovering that a SIDS victim had been “co-bedding” with another family member because there was no crib, the staff now works to ensure that babies don’t go home without a safe place to sleep.
Next on the agenda is fundraising to build a bigger, better Evaluation Center — perhaps a true pediatric emergency room — with some 24 to 30 beds instead of today’s 14. To help move that closer to reality, Richerson and his staff promoted a new race last Halloween, the Trick or Trot, attracting some 500 runners and raising $25,000. This year they hope to raise even more.
Dr. Jason Richerson, medical director of the USA Children's & Women's Evaluation Center (emergency department) and an avid runner, participated in the Dopey Challenge in early 2014. The race is a four-day running challenge.
It was a natural choice for a guy who runs for fun, even completing Disney’s Dopey Challenge earlier this year — a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday. He figures he covered 2,000 miles last year. His son Garrett, now 4, accompanies him for some of that. He and his wife, Stacy, a physician’s assistant in Dr. Howard Rubenstein’s family practice in Saraland, Ala., also have a one-year-old daughter, Emma.
The new Center will be a big help for providing better care for the region’s kids, he says.
“Sometimes we take it for granted, what we do,” he says. “But then a parent comes back and says ‘You saved my kid’s life.’ It’s great to hear we’ve made a difference.”
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