A pediatrician at UVA Children's, Ina Stephens, MD, helps kids grow up as healthy as possible. She's also board-certified in pediatric infectious diseases. She uses this special knowledge to help kids with severe, complicated, and unusual infections.
Meet a Charlottesville-Based Pediatrician
We asked Stephens to answer our 7 quick questions.
1. What has most inspired and shaped your approach to patient care?
I think it's a twofold answer. The first is I became interested in medicine and patient care working in my father's office, starting when I was probably 13 years old. My father was a dermatologist. But he was far more than that. He literally sat half the time and just listened to the patient. Even if they came in with "almost nothing" as he would say.
And his patients used to tell me that my father was just the most incredible person because he listened to them. I learned from him to really listen to patients. Because they have the answer and they know what's going on with them. If you really listen to the patient, you know how to take care of them.
The second thing is that I've had my own issues with being a patient. I know when a physician has taken good care of me, treated me well, and listened to me, and when they haven't. And I think that's changed and helped my approach to taking care of patients, and also their caretakers, family, and parents.
2. What's your favorite part of your job?
I love teaching patients, teaching them what's wrong with them or what I feel is going on with them so they understand their disease process, where it comes from, and how to heal themselves. Also, teaching medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty. And I love that part of my job. I feel like I'm able to offer a lot and I enjoy it.
3. What's your biggest fear when you're a patient?
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UVA Children's offers primary care for kids and access to any specialists you might need.
I've been a patient numerous times. And my biggest fear is not having a physician listen to me. I have gone into the emergency room not feeling well with crises. I've been in doctor's offices with problems, and they're focused in on their issue, and they're not listening to the whole person and things have been missed, and that's a difficult experience. So I think that my biggest fear is not being listened to. So I try to do that for my patients.
4. What do you do for stress relief?
Stress release is a really important part of my life. I'm a certified yoga teacher and therapist and a certified personal trainer. I have been meditating for over 30 years. It's a daily part of my life. I meditate twice a day and do deep breathing techniques, which is called pranayama. This helps me focus and quiets down my nervous system. I practice on my yoga mat daily and it's a very important part of my day.
5. Dogs or cats?
Oh, cat. I love my cat. I feel like a cat communicates by being very quiet and listening.
6. What's the last movie you saw? Thumbs up or down?
I haven't been to the movie theater lately. But I've been watching a series on Amazon Prime called Genius. Maybe that counts? Season 1 is all about Einstein, season 2 is on Picasso, season 3 is Aretha Franklin. We're right in the middle of Einstein, and it's absolutely fascinating. You realize that everybody is human, no matter how genius you are. And everybody has human flaws and everybody has lessons to learn in their life, and Einstein certainly did too. It's a fascinating story.
7. What's the best advice you've ever heard?
Two things come up immediately. The first one comes from my father. I've told this to my kids over and over and I say this to myself. He would say all the time, "Ina, don't worry, just study."
Because I would get myself all worried about a situation. You could take that little quote and apply it to anything. Don't worry, just feel it. Don't worry, just kind of sit with the moment and deal with it. So that's been a very important and simple little comment that I learned from my dad. And what I say all the time to myself.
The second is one that I have recently come across and I literally loved it. So I printed it out and put it up in my kitchen. It's the quote, "Comparison is the thief of all joy." I think that's really important because people tend to compare themselves to everybody else. You are always looking to the other side. The grass is greener on the other side. Or somebody else has something else that I don't have. And that's a robber and a thief of your own joy.
If you stop that comparison, you're content with what you have. And I think contentment is a huge virtue. And if we could be content, then it doesn't matter what you're doing, you're happy.