... the tales of two sisters

Dana lives in Seattle, and Tracie lives in Germany. We are businesswomen, writers and humorists. We write about life, dating, and today's modern women.

Ask Dr. Terry! Spotlight on Michelle Terry

Today, I am honored to feature one of my best friends who also gets the title as my “smartest girlfriend! ” I met Dr. Terry nearly nineteen years ago, when I was referred to her during my search for a pediatrician. As a new mother, I was exhilarated, yet exhausted, proud, yet paranoid, and everything in between. After leaving Dr. Terry’s office, (my first and only interview) I crossed the other referral appointments off my list. Not only had I found a pediatrician for my newborn son, I found a new addition to my family. Dr. Terry’s infectious laugh resonates like her calm and knowledgeable demeanor. With her new column, Ask Dr. Terry, everyone will reap the benefit of her wit and wisdom!

Spotlight on Dr. Michelle Terry

“Now take a deep breath in, now let it out”, is one of my earliest child hood memories. I loved going to see my pediatrician, Dr. Reid, and with my parents’ encouragement, I dreamed of becoming a pediatrician myself one day. After I completed my BA in Human Biology at Stanford University, I returned to my hometown of Houston, Texas to begin medical school at Baylor College of Medicine. So many years later, Dr. Reid and I were both tickled to see each other in the halls of Texas Children’s Hospital rounding on our respective patients. I developed a deep love of the practice of pediatrics, because I felt confident that I could make children well in most circumstances, because most parents would do anything necessary to support their children towards recovery.

“Why would you want to interview in Seattle? You have never been there before, plus you don’t know anyone there,” remarked my mother when I announced that I was going to check out a pediatric residency program at the University of Washington and Children’s Hospital there. I told her that “I don’t know, I just feel like I belong there.” Now after 22 years in my new home, things have worked out OK. I finished my pediatric residency, joined an established private practice (Broadway Pediatrics was my dream situation – it had both a salt water fish tank and Nurse Betty), got married and had a baby within four years of moving to Seattle. Subsequent to that time, my family and career have both grown, I had two more children, and transitioned my practice of medicine so that I now teach medical students as part of the faculty at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and see patients exclusively as an inpatient doctor (hospitalist) at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Along the way, I began consulting to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services regarding the medical needs for children in foster care, “wards of the state”, who by definition have been removed from their family of origin because of physical abuse and or neglect. Although eventual reunification with the family of origin is the goal, unfortunately, sometimes that ideal is not possible.

I began thinking about how to support families so that there is a stronger bond between parents and children. There is a surprising simple answer – share meals together at the table on a regular basis. When I was growing up, we all had breakfast and dinner together every morning and every evening unless something very unusual was going on. Eating together was such a routine, I took it for granted growing up – yet simply sitting together around the table is one of my strongest and fondest memories of childhood, other than going to see my pediatrician.

Multiple studies have shown children who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems. Conversation is also an important part of having dinner together. Families can talk about what’s happened at school, what’s happened at sports practice, homework, weekend plans, the list of topics goes on and on. Families can also share ideas for future activities and dreams for future goals. It is also the ideal time to model good eating habits by choosing nutritious foods, while sharing the responsibility of preparing the table, cooking, and cleaning up after the meals.

Overall, studies prove that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize on the surface. With that idea in mind – I have partnered with Children’s Trust Foundation to launch “Ask Dr. Terry”, a regular interactive column that will focus on children’s health and nutrition by promoting nutrition advice and emotional insights into parenting children along the age spectrum. Each week, sample recipes with a shopping list will post to encourage families to eat nutritious dishes together. The community will also be invited to share their comments and homemade recipes for food and love with each other.

Family dinners, in addition to satisfying our physical and emotional needs, offer a time and place to consciously teach our children the value of caring for others. We feel less alone in the world when we know there are people who love and care about us, no matter what we are going through, and that we will see them regularly at the table.

Please join Children’s Trust Foundation this Saturday April 28th for “A Place at the Table”, a fun filled, participatory event to practice one’s cooking skills, and share the joy of eating together.

Home-cooked meals + love = healthy and supported families.
Michelle Terry, MD