National Doctors Day

Spotlight on Dr. Janine Rethy, MGUH Division Chief for Community Pediatrics

We are celebrating National Doctors Day by spotlighting Dr. Janine Rethy, who has been the Division Chief for Community Pediatrics at MedStar Georgetown University  Hospital (MGUH) since 2017.

Dr. Rethy also serves as the Medical Director for our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile® programs, operated in partnership with MGUH, and serving Washington, D.C. Wards 4-8. Read our spotlight on Dr. Rethy to learn more about her important work.

1. Tell us about the services provided through the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs.

Our division operates three main programs and I serve as Medical Director for both Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs.

KIDS Mobile Medical Clinic/Ronald McDonald Care Mobile (KMMC/RMCM)

We have provided primary care services on the mobile van directly in DC neighborhoods for 29 years. Community Pediatrics has a special focus on building trust and delivering care and services directly in communities that need it the most.

So what that looks like for our families is that they have a true medical home in their neighborhoods. When they call us, our team knows who they are and can connect them quickly to what they need. They will never be turned away because of their insurance status.

We provide outstanding pediatric care, but also spend time asking about social needs and mental health needs and then connecting families with our social worker and community partners to help them meet those needs. Each year we host a Holiday Toy Drive, Back to School Backpack event and other events to let our families know how much we care about them.

 

Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, focused on FITNESS

Through our Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, focused on FITNESS, we partner with local elementary and middle schools to provide students and their families with nutrition and physical activity programming, school-wide capacity building, and BMI screenings.

During the pandemic we started the Healthy Children and Families Program – a successful healthy meal and grocery delivery to our families with young children who have food insecurity. We have since expanded to include nutrition education, family social and emotional support as well as financial well-being counseling.

I also spend a lot of time on medical education, as Director of Medical Education for Community Pediatrics, training medical students, residents and a Fellow on delivering high quality community-centered health care in order to decrease barriers to care and ultimately decrease health disparities in our community.

 

2. Why is the work you do through the Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles important?

I believe quite simply that every child deserves the opportunity to reach their potential. Pediatricians have an enormous privilege in our society to become a part of a family’s life as they raise their children. Our job is to do everything we can so that child grows up healthy and happy.

With that, the mission of Community Pediatrics is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be healthy and thrive, and that our community attains health equity. This is an urgent mission in a city with unacceptable health disparities rooted in complex historical structural inequities and racism.

Every day I start my day focusing on the Why. Then the work falls into place: focusing on our team providing each child and their families outstanding care as well creating health and community systems transformation for sustained health equity.

3. What is your favorite part of working on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs?

I started in this field 20 years ago, and I’ve loved every minute. My favorite moments on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs are with my patients and their families during our visits together celebrating the milestones and partnering on solutions to challenges. The rest of my work is to make more of those moments available for more families.

 

4. Do you have a memory or story you want to share?

At each of our KMMC/RMCM sites, we are on the same block on the same day of the week for many years. Our Friday site is in SW DC on a block between the James Creek housing complex and King Greenleaf Recreation Center. We have been at that site for 21 years and are a fixture in the community.

One day, during clinic, a woman came on the van to say she lives in the neighborhood and noticed our van there every Friday for all these years. She came on that day because she needed health care for her 5 year old grandson with a life-threatening genetic disease, who was now living with her and had been disconnected from care for a variety of reasons.

We were able to get this child caught up with his vaccinations and health care needs and connect and coordinate care with his geneticist. We were also able to help the family with some ongoing social needs including getting health insurance, and arranging meal delivery.  It is quite a complex case and not with perfect outcomes, but really highlights our model’s unique ability to improve access to health and wellbeing.

 

5. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought enormous challenges to the families we serve as well as to our team members.  Our amazing group has stayed true to our mission and met the moment.

Everyone stepped up and quickly transformed, expanded and continuously adjusted our model to meet our families need within the rapidly evolving health and community landscape. Their resilient and kind spirit keeps me inspired and filled with gratitude.

6. Any fun facts you want to share about yourself?

My husband and I are lucky to have three awesome teenagers. During the pandemic we have learned so much more about the incredible parks and hiking trails right here in DC that we didn’t really know about before because we were so busy. We have been exploring Rock Creek Park and Glover-Archibold Park and lots of trails along the Potomac River and O&D canal.

Our kids started an organization this past year called Kids Helping DC where they have mobilized teens to collect needed food and supplies in their neighborhoods for Food and Friends and N Street Village. Our kids drive around picking up the supplies and delivering them to the organizations. We are really proud they feel connected to and committed to our DC community.

 

Thank you to Dr. Rethy, her team on the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile programs, and to all the pediatric doctors out there making a difference in the lives of the children and families we serve!