Donna D’Alessandro: A teacher, learner, and leader in pediatrics

Some people know what type of medicine they want to practice; some discover their passion along the way.

“For me, it was a circuitous path. I actually thought that I was going to be doing family medicine,” says Donna D’Alessandro, MD, professor in the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics.

While in medical school, she found that pediatrics seemed a much better fit.

“That whole primary care idea of building trusted, long-term relationships with patients and families, and really looking at the breadth of care, was important to me,” she says.

Dr. Donna D’Alessandro speaks with a pediatric resident in her UI clinic.

To be an effective pediatrician, you have to like working with kids. But for D’Alessandro, who specializes in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine, it goes beyond that.

“You have to like adults, also, because although we’re dealing with the children physically, we rely on the parents to provide their child’s medical history and make care decisions,” she says. “You have to be able to work with the whole family.”

Educating the next generation of doctors

D’Alessandro also works closely with resident physicians and medical students.

“I’ve probably been a medical educator all my life, but didn’t realize it, because I come from a family of educators,” says D’Alessandro.

While she stays busy treating patients, teaching is where she spends most of her time.

She enjoys watching her medical students grow, both as individuals and clinicians. She also enjoys seeing them when they return for subsequent clinical rotations. Sometimes she works with students who are considering different specialty areas, just as she did in medical school.

“And I’ve seen several medical students here end up becoming pediatricians,” she says. “I was honored to see they found pediatrics was a good home for them.”

One of 16 inaugural academy members

After a rigorous application process, D’Alessandro was recently selected as part of the first National Academy of Distinguished Educators in Pediatrics (NADEP) cohort, a prestigious group of medical educators.

“The academy really recognizes the important contributions of pediatric medical educators, both to the local institutions, but also the national institutions,” she says.

D’Alessandro is particularly excited about enhanced visibility for junior medical educators and how this organization might support their career paths. She believes NADEP will have a significant impact on subsequent generations of educators.

“To really move this field forward, we’re going to need some really strong leaders,” says D’Alessandro. “This type of an academy will, I think, support that growth of our community.”

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