Caring for the youngest patients

Dr. Alexandra Walsh has answered a very special call in the field of pediatric hematology and oncology. As to why, Dr. Walsh explains, “I initially intended to be a plastic surgeon, but after a health scare, I realized that I wanted to make a genuine impact during my career and switched specialties. Although this transition was difficult at the time, I ended up finding the perfect specialty for me.”

Dr. Walsh also admits that, “Not everyone can be a pediatric blood and cancer specialist, but I love the intensity of it. You get so close to the patients and their families and have a real impact on a child’s life. I am passionate about supporting families though the difficult times, and it is that closeness that helps me during some of the tougher moments.”

Dr. Walsh received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her medical degree from the Ohio State College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. She completed her pediatric residency at the University of Chicago and her fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While completing her fellowship she also received a master’s degree in public health.Dr. Walsh is board certified in pediatrics and board eligible in pediatric hematology/oncology. During her fellowship, she developed an interest in health care disparities and published several papers on the topic. In addition, she was recently nominated to the Young Investigator’s Committee of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

She credits both of her grandmothers for their influence on her life; teaching her to never give up, and to find joy in everyday experiences. As for other women entering her profession, she advises, “I think medicine, especially pediatrics, is a great career for women. Women tend to have more compassion and empathy than men, not to mention patience. And after we have our own children, we develop an even stronger connection with our patients and their parents,” Dr. Walsh said.

As for the balance we all wish to achieve, her advice is pretty straightforward, “Find a strong life partner who believes in you. I would not be where I am today without my husband’s constant support and encouragement (not to mention help with childcare and housekeeping).”

According to Dr. Walsh, along with her practice, one of the most enjoyable parts of her job is working with medical students from Touro University and residents from the University of Nevada School of Medicine. She developed a curriculum for the students, and is currently working on quality improvement projects and case reports with some of the pediatric residents.

She also works closely with many organizations that help children with cancer and blood disorders including Candlelighters Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation and the Hemophilia Foundation. “My colleagues and I at Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada participate in many 5k fundraisers, decorate a room for a Halloween event and participate at camps whenever possible,” she said.

Dr. Walsh lives with her two children and husband and, at the time of this article, was pregnant with their third child due in May.

Even with the many demands on her time, Dr. Walsh established Nevada’s first Long-Term Survivor Clinic for childhood cancer patients who are now done with their treatments. “We give patients a summary of their past treatments as well as information about what tests they should schedule and when, so they stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. The clinic is multidisciplinary and enables families to meet with social workers, education specialists and complementary medicine experts.” Dr. Walsh demonstrates that a Fearless Female can help the most helpless: sick children.

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