As a mother and a pediatrician, Dr. Michele Saysana’s day begins and ends with children--her own and others. “From a fairly young age, I always knew that I wanted to become a doctor,” she says, “but I ultimately landed on pediatrics because I really love kids.”
Growing up in Noblesville, Indiana as the oldest of three (she was the big sister to two younger brothers), Dr. Saysana sharpened her maternal instincts early. Her path to pediatric medicine formally began at Indiana University in Bloomington where she majored in biology and minored in psychology. Saysana then opted to attend medical school at IU, where she met her future husband (who also works as a physician at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health).
“I completed my clinical years at Riley and IU Health’s Methodist Hospital, and then went on to work as a pediatrician at a private practice on the east side of Indy,” she says.
Still, Dr. Saysana recalls, Riley was always in the back of her mind. “Even after I left, I always thought I would come back to Riley to teach medical students and residents.”
It was several years before the right opportunity would appear, then one day it occurred. Dr. Saysana was approached and joined the pediatric hospitalist group at Riley Hospital for Children.
What is a pediatric hospitalist? They are pediatricians who work primarily in hospitals, Dr. Saysana says. They care for children in many hospital areas, including labor and delivery, the emergency department, the neonatal intensive and pediatric intensive care units. They work also work with other physicians and providers involved in a child’s care.”
And so, Dr. Saysana slipped into her new role, armed with enthusiasm.
“When I first went into medicine the role of a pediatric hospitalist didn’t exist,” she says. “It just wasn’t on the radar in 1995 when I started medical school, but seeing that evolve has been amazing to watch. And it was a great experience to come back and apply what I had learned in private practice here at Riley. At the same time I was going through all of this, my husband was also embarking on this career as a pediatric anesthesiologist and he was starting at Riley, too. It was exciting to know that we’d be here taking care of kids together.”
Still, Dr. Saysana is the first to admit that her life is anything but simple. In addition to her role at Riley, she is the mother to Jack, 14, Caroline, 10 and Robert, 8. “Both of our families are incredibly supportive. I couldn’t be here if my mother and mother-in-law didn’t help us with our kids. We are very blessed.”
Regardless, guilt is an emotion that tends to haunt many working moms and Dr. Saysana is no exception. At one point, she says, she began to notice that she wasn’t as able to be as involved at her children’s schools like many of the moms of their classmates. So, she asked her son if that bothered him.
She wasn’t prepared for his answer.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Mom, it doesn’t bother me because I’m really proud to say you work at Riley every day.’ And hearing that was heartwarming, it was so special.”
What’s also special, she says, is the hospital itself. “Everyone at Riley works for the kids—the doctors, nurses, housekeepers—everyone maintains a strong commitment to excellent care. It’s a fundamental mission. Riley is an amazing organization. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
-- By Sarah Burns