Doc Smo’s Annual Holiday Message 2020 (Pedcast)

Ten years of weekly podcasting, 569 published posts, and I am still going strong connecting to you, my listeners. And, it’s time for one of my favorite posts of the year, my annual holiday message. Today’s message is kind of personal and equally important. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Image complements of Pixabay

Musical Intro

Why Healthcare for Doc Smo?

As a child, I had no idea that I could or would turn out to be a doctor. I liked math and science in school but mainly I wanted to be outside playing sports. When I got to college, I was forced to confront the question, “What am I going to do with this fancy education I am getting and what am I going to do with the rest of my life?” My strengths were in math,  science, and… hard work. The latter being the most important. I was an overachiever who knew my most powerful weapon was a good work ethic and persistence. Hard work and persistence were my secret weapons that had taught me that if I wanted something enough, I could get it with sheer determination. A career in medicine came up on my radar as a career path, initially, because a full 50% of my undergraduate class were pre-med.Maybe I could do that?  We all tend to want others around us want, right? So, I set out to find out if it was for me. As an undergraduate, I volunteered at a VA pharmacy, I worked summers in a neurosurgeon’s research lab doing dog and cat experiments, I got a part time job in a neurology lab doing some of the earliest research on brain neuro-transmitters, and I helped staff a free community medical clinic for disadvantaged residents in Durham, NC. The more I explored the world of healthcare, the more intrigued I became. Yes, medicine was going to be my path I thought.

I remember coming home during my 4th year of medical school and having a conversation with my father about my future. It’s in your fourth year that you have to choose a residency specialty. Its fish or cut bait time for a major life decision. I had decided on pediatrics for two reasons… I enjoyed taking care of acute illness in patients, children, who had incredible powers to bounce back from adversity and I loved the energy that children gave off. I just liked being around them. When I told my father of my decision I’ll never forget his response, “You have a license that allows you to do brain surgery and you are going to do what with it?” I explained my reasoning and he just listened. I knew what he was thinking though; he thought I was crazy to go into the lowest paying medical specialty that carried little status when I could have so much more. But to his credit, he never said another thing about my choice. He supported me in my decision. When the time came to start my residency, he even helped drive the 16 hours’ drive to my new life as a budding pediatrician.

The Reality of the Job

Pediatrics turned out to be everything I expected-lots of acute life-threatening illness where quick action rescued a lot of little souls. I was literally saving and changing lives on a daily basis. As my skills grew, the job became even more satisfying. When I entered the world of private practice and was making important decisions without supervision, I knew I had arrived. I was even beginning to get enough life experience to help children and families work through psychological stress and grow. Oh sure, there is a lot not to like about primary care pediatrics in those days, 80-hour work weeks, middle of the night trips to delivery rooms and EDs, and the nearly constant intrusion of phone calls. But underneath all that, there was the knowledge that I was doing something important to improve people’s lives. I was helping my patients and they were proving to me that I had made the right career choice.

Would I Do it all Over Again?

People often ask me if I would do it all over again? Was this a good career choice looking in the rear-view mirror. For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Why, because as the name says, I was in the “caring” business, the “healthcare” business. I was being well paid to “care” for children and families.  When you think of other professions, think about the verbs that we associate with them; lawyers provide counsel, accountants help you make sound financial decisions, architects and engineers provide blueprints and plans, and university professors provide enlightenment. All important and noble professions but not as important as doctors who provide care, healthcare.  There is an intimacy in practicing medicine that other professions can’t touch. So yes, I would do it all over again.

My Holiday Wish for Your Children

So why have I told you all this about myself? Because my holiday wish for your children is for them to eventually find their own meaningful life work. I think their choice of an occupation is as important for them as choosing the right mate, nurturing their children, or leading a virtuous life. In my mind, we were born to work and to serve. I want your children to start the process of finding work that is fulfilling , now, while they are still under your roof. How do you do this you ask? Here are my suggestions to get you started:

-Let your children try a wide range of activities and skills so they can discover their unique interest’s.

-Teach your children about the importance of work to living a full and rewarding life.

-Discuss with your older children what you find rewarding about your own work whether that be a W-2 job, running a household, or volunteer work for your community.

-Set a good example for your children by having a positive attitude toward your work.

-Help your children think through the different types of occupations that suit their personalities and talents.

-Stress with your children that it is an honor to work and support your family and community.

-Point out to your children that most of their adult lives will be spent working. They need to find work that is both interesting and meaningful.


It’s that simple. Don’t underestimate the influence you have on your children’s attitudes and motivations. Ultimately, your children will need to find their own path but your input and guidance is very valuable to them. Don’t hesitate to provide it for them.



Well, as always, thanks for joining me today. I am honored that you chose to spend a little time with me today. We at Portable Practical Pediatrics try very hard to bring you thought provoking information and insights. We hope you will tune in again soon. Feel free to check out our library of 569 posts to date. I am sure you will find content here that will be very relevant to your parenting experience. This is your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping that you found  good reason to keep listening this holiday season. Until next time.