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November 24, 2000
Introducing Lisa M. Asta, M.D.

ediatrics, like computers or a garden, keeps changing. Thirty years ago, babies went home from the hospital in their mother's arms, slept on their tummy, and itched and scratched their way through chicken pox. Today, my tiny patients ride home in a car seat and learn to roll over a little later because they sleep on their back; now we have the varicella vaccine to prevent chicken pox altogether.

Room to Grow


By Lisa M. Asta, M.D.

Scientific advancement notwithstanding, parents want excellent medical care for their children, and they invest time and energy getting information on which to base their decisions. Now there is more information at their fingertips than in years past: Parents listen to the evening news; they surf websites like this one. Unfortunately, much of what masquerades as medical information isn't the highest quality.

In the face of sensational teasers and shock media, I stand by evidence-based medicine -- the belief that all medical recommendations should be formulated from well-designed, unbiased research. Parents ask me about sleep and asthma and that letter from the teacher that insists they get their child tested for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I take their questions one at a time, explaining what we know and acknowledging what we don't. From there, parents can begin to make informed choices.

My own choices led me to pediatrics because I've always loved explaining things. I loved science and the body, and I studied my texts and read my mother's nursing books with one goal in mind: I would learn medicine well enough to explain it in plain language. Pediatrics allows me to make a big impact, because time spent explaining gets invested over an entire lifetime of growth and development.


Unfortunately, much of what masquerades as medical information isn't the highest quality.


Ten years ago, I began combining writing with medicine to bring sound, practical explanations to larger audiences. For me, writing remains an invaluable opportunity to research medical advances and speak with experts in the field. Translating pediatrics into simple, jargon-free language helps me teach parents and patients and readers. My articles have appeared in parenting publications on both coasts, and I've published features in Annals of Internal Medicine, Contemporary Pediatrics Resident, and the New Physician, where I am a contributing editor. My medical essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, and the San Jose Mercury News.

I am all too aware that present-day pediatrics will probably seem outdated in another 30 years. Indeed, I hope that's true when it comes to cancer, colic, and the common cold. Researchers will make amazing discoveries, and children will live longer, healthier lives as a result. We're going to use this column to show you how we get from here to there. Think of me as your pediatric search engine for the best information on medicine, behavior, and development.

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Lisa M. Asta, M.D., F.A.A.P., is a board-certified pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Asta graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Temple University School of Medicine. She trained at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. She practices in Walnut Creek, California.