Pediatric rheumatologist Miriam Parsa begins work as chief pediatric medical officer
Inspired by her young patients, Dr. Miriam Parsa is excited about her new job as the chief pediatric medical officer for Cottage Health.
“I’m definitely humbled by this responsibility,” Dr. Parsa told the News-Press. “I’m still in clinical practice. So I’m a part-time CPMO and part-time pediatric rheumatologist.
“It is actually really critical to have a really good understanding of how the program works and what our needs are,” she said. “I really think this work we are doing here in our small town doesn’t feel small with the potential we have. I am humbled and proud to represent my pediatric colleagues. I definitely feel the weight of this responsibility.
“My predecessor, Dr. Steve Barkley, had a vision for expanding pediatric specialists locally. He started the movement to have high quality care locally so that people wouldn’t have to travel,” Dr. Parsa said.
“There are not very many pediatric rheumatologists in the country,” she continued. “Cottage brought me up from L.A. because there was no pediatric rheumatologist in the Tri-county area. They brought me in eight years ago because they recognized the need. I feel like that is very telling of the commitment to pediatrics.”
Dr. Parsa joined the medical staff of Cottage Health and the Cottage Children’s Medical Center in 2013 and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Rheumatology.
She received her medical degree from the Albany Medical Center in New York and completed her medical internship, residency and fellowship at UCLA. She also earned her master of public health degree from Yale University.
The News-Press asked Dr. Parsa how her career has prepared her for this opportunity.
“I think part of it is my personality. I get involved in problems when I feel I can make a difference and be part of the solution,” she said. “I have always been on work groups, committees and task forces since I was young. When I find meaning in the work, it doesn’t feel like work.
“I like being part of a solution or a pathway to a solution. It’s who I am. Pediatric rheumatology is a collaborative field. One patient can require many specialists in my field. Inherent in my field is collaboration. I don’t presume to know everything. I want to engage the experts for the best possible outcome.”
Dr. Parsa spoke to her duties as the chief pediatric medical officer.
“I think overall it’s continuing what Dr. Barkley started: providing excellent, high quality, evidence-based health care locally. In order to do that there has to be strategy. I’m responsible for participating in the strategy of how that plays out. From ensuring we have all the specialists we need to making sure we have all the outreach clinics we need in town.
“We want to add additional clinics in the future so we can provide local care,” Dr. Parsa said. “We have been using telehealth in an up-to-date way to provide care for our patients. I really appreciate the patient-centric staff who are focused on how we can make this work for our community.
“We also just started a pediatric residency program so that is a large part of my role: Ensuring we have all the educational opportunities to provide the most comprehensive educational experience for them.”
The News-Press asked Dr. Parsa about her goals.
“I would say that I really want to focus on synergy within pediatrics. I want to focus on making this a truly pediatric centric program with the different colleagues that I have.”
Dr. Parsa said she loves pediatrics in general and pediatric rheumatology in particular. “I felt like this opportunity of CPMO will help me have an even more far reaching opportunity to reach patients.
“Kids’ ability to heal and resilience is amazing. I am inspired and in awe everyday that I am in the clinic,” she said.
Pediatrics wasn’t the only field that Dr. Parsa envisioned working in.
“I thought I wanted to do women’s health and geriatrics,” Dr. Parsa said. “However, I couldn’t shake the feeling I got when I stepped on the pediatric floor, maybe it was the colorful decorations and balloons, and the kids with their cars. I would be able to practice medicine, help them and feel that joy.
“My dad gave me advice; he’s a retired nephrologist (a kidney doctor). He said, ‘Miriam, do you want a new patient that comes into a clinic with a small chart or a big chart?’ I think being able to see kids grow up and be a part of their lives is such a privilege. It was hands down, no question, I am a pediatrician.”
“The true love of my life is my family. I am inspired every day by my colleagues and patients, but my true love is my family: My husband, my two boys and my parents who have been inspirational to me.”