After trekking through years of medical school, getting certified as pediatrician makes the journey well worth it. After all, “pediatrics is a fun environment,” says Dr. Blaze Gusic, a pediatrician at the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.
Sure, some children are terrified of going to the doctor. “We try to make it an environment that is kid-friendly,” he says. “That means bright colors and lots of cartoon characters on the walls.” Not to mention toys and games in the waiting area.
We spoke with Gusic to find out more about the profession.
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What does a pediatrician do?
A pediatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for children from birth until 21 years of age. But it goes beyond administering shots and treating the sniffles. “What many people don’t realize is that we don’t just take care of physical health and give immunizations,” he explains. “We also work to ensure that children are socially, emotionally and developmentally healthy.”
What schooling do you need?
After getting an undergraduate degree – it “doesn’t need to be in science, although certain science classes like biology, chemistry and physics are required,” Gusic says -- medical school is another four years. Following that, doctors spend three years in an internship and residency focused purely on the care of children, he says.
What’s the typical salary?
The median annual salary for pediatricians is $184,240, according to the most recent reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best-paid in the profession made $258,321, while the lowest-paid made $141,851.
Is it hard to find employment?
“As long as there are children, there will be work for pediatricians,” says Gusic. Plus, as a profession that provides a variety of job options, finding employment is usually not an issue. “While most pediatricians provide direct care for patients and families, there are career paths that allow for teaching medical students and residents or working on research projects,” he says.
Aside from that, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10 percent employment growth between 2014 and 2024, during which an estimated 3,600 jobs will open up.
“It’s always gratifying to watch a child grow from an infant into a toddler, preschooler and onwards,” says Gusic.
It’s also rewarding to develop relationships with families, which in some cases can even cross generations. “Some of us who have been doing this long enough get to see our patients grow up and become parents to our next round of patients,” he says.
Taking care of children with chronic and sometimes fatal illnesses is always emotionally challenging. “It’s never easy to see a child suffer or pass away,” he says.
Pediatricians also have to care for children coming from disadvantaged social and economic situations, and witness firsthand what happens when children grow up in poor conditions, he continues.
“In many areas of the country where there is a lack of access to care, children’s basic health needs are not being met, and young children are especially vulnerable to these stressors,” explains Gusic.