STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Meet Dr. Sunita Mathew, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To honor it, I was very fortunate to a interview Dr. Sunita Mathew who is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

A Psychiatrist is a specialized physician within the medical field that diagnoses, prevents and treats mental illnesses. Dr. Mathew specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which generally focuses on children, adolescents and their families.

In our interview, Dr. Mathew provided some interesting insight into her career, career path and her thoughts on the stigmas that still exist surrounding mental health. See our interview below:

Q: How would you describe your medical specialty to a child?

A: I’m a “thinking” type of doctor. I help people who have problems with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Q: What field(s) of psychiatry do you specialize in? How would you briefly describe it to a child?  What kinds of conditions do you treat?

A: I specialize in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I help kids who have difficulty controlling their emotions or behaviors. I commonly treat depression, anxiety, impulse control disorders, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and learning disorders.

Q: How would you describe a ‘mental illness’ ?

A: Mental illness can be an expression of a common emotion that becomes extreme or significant enough to impact or disrupt one’s quality of life. 

Q: How would you describe the differences between a psychologist and psychiatrist to a child? 

A: A psychologist is a trained professional that can diagnose various emotional and behavioral disorders and treat with specific targeted therapy. A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor that can diagnose and treat mental illnesses with the option of prescribing medication interventions. The two fields often work together for the best outcomes. 

Q: How and why did you choose psychiatry as your chosen field?  Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path? 

A: I started developing an interest in Psychology and how the human mind works in college. In medical school, I had my first exposure to Psychiatry with my required clinical rotations. I just happened by chance to be placed on a rotation that had a lot of exposure to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry along with Adult Psychiatry.  In addition to working with the pediatric population, I enjoyed working with the nurses and psychiatrists that chose to dedicate their careers to work with children.  Once I was exposed to this specialty, I tried to keep an open mind as I rotated in other specialties but I always came back to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as my first choice. 

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite subject(s)? 

A: Math, Psychology, Sociology,  and Anthropology.

Q: What did you study in college and how / why did you choose it/them?  What made you decide to pursue medical school?

A: In college, I was pretty sure I wanted to go to medical school, so I took all the core pre-med course requirements like Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I majored in Psychology and Sociology because I found the subjects very interesting. Both Psychology and Psychiatry were careers that I had considered in college. I decided to pursue medical school because I felt that there were some disorders that could benefit from medication interventions and I wanted to have that option when treating. 

Q: Do you feel that your studies in college are helpful to you in your career now?  How or why? 

A: Yes. I feel that my varied studies gave me a unique perspective. My science background helps me approach a case with analytical and critical thinking and my background in psychology and sociology has given me perspective on human behavior. 

Q: When and how did you become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)? 

A: Around middle school is when I started getting interested in doing science experiments and lab reports. In high school, I really enjoyed competing in science fairs. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that a psychiatrist must have to be successful? 

A: Being non-judgmental, open-minded, empathetic, patient, attentive, and good listening skills are all good attributes to have as a psychiatrist. Sometimes a lot can be said non verbally. 

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your career? 

A: When I see treatment significantly improve my patients’ lives. 

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your career?

A: Hearing some of the bad stuff children have gone through. I have met some children who have gone through some unimaginable circumstances in such a short period of their life. That’s hard to process and take home with you.

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your career? 

A: When the kids make me laugh! Sometimes finding humor in a stressful situation can make all the difference.

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to help their children build confidence and interest in the STEM?  

A: Don’t limit your kids if they have an interest, even if you think they might not be able to grasp it.  Give them the tools to grasp it. 

Q: What do you wish others knew about your profession that is commonly misunderstood?

A: I feel there is a great deal of people still out there that don’t know the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist or therapist. We all have important roles in mental health, but they are different. 

Image credit: www.nami.org

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked Dr. Mathews some more specific questions regarding her opinions on some topics still surrounding mental health:

Q: What is the biggest stigma around mental health, that you wish would go away in society and what would be your response to it?  How can we get rid of this stigma? 

A: I feel that a big stigma that prevents people from getting help is the fear of being judged or treated differently.  I think when more and more people, particularly in the public eye, share their stories about mental illness it normalizes it and lessens the stigma. 

Q: How would you suggest parents explain “Mental Health” to their children? 

A: I usually tell my patients that there is mental health and physical health. Sometimes you need to treat your mental health just like you would if you had high blood pressure or diabetes or a broken leg. There is no shame in mental illness, it is not your fault or anything you did. 

Q: If someone reading this blog thinks that they, a friend or family member may be struggling with a mental illness, what should / can they do?  What should their first step be? 

A: Talking it over with their primary care physician can be a good first step. Also, calling their insurance’s behavior/mental health line might be helpful in navigating the system and figuring out where to start. If it’s an emergency where safety is an imminent concern then calling 911 or getting them to the nearest ER is where you need to go. 

Image credit: www.nami.org

Q: If you had to ‘prescribe’ one thing to society to help all of us with our mental health or thoughts around mental health, what would it be? 

A: Everybody is going through something at some point in their life, being kind and non-judgmental can go a long way in their recovery. 

Thank you so much to Dr. Mathew for your time and allowing me to interview you for my blog.

Thank you to one of my avid supporters and readers of my blog (you know who you are!) for helping me get in contact with Dr. Mathew. She is truly impressive.

I hope that you enjoyed this STEM career interview. If you have a specific profession in mind that you would like to learn more about! You can leave me a note here, on my social media pages or email me at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

As with some of the other images in this post, the featured image at the top is credited to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Meet Dr. Sean, Pediatric Anesthesiologist

Does your child say that they would like to be a doctor someday? The careers in the medical field are endless, as there are so many types of specialty fields. Recently, I interviewed a close friend, Dr. Sean, who is a Pediatric Anesthesiologist.

Pediatric Anesthesiologist, Dr. Sean

There are many types of physicians. Dr. Sean works in pediatrics as an anesthesiologist. A doctor who works in pediatrics, may see anyone that is age 21 or younger. They may also see patients with special needs beyond that age as well. They provide medical care for infants, children and adolescents. An anesthesiologist is a doctor that specializes in medicines that need to be administered to keep a patient comfortable during procedures that would likely cause intolerable pain.

Here’s a glimpse into Dr. Sean’s profession as a Pediatric Anesthesiologist:

Q: What kind of physician are you and how would you describe your profession?

A: I’m currently a pediatric anesthesiologist, as well as an attending on our acute pain and regional anesthesia service. I provide anesthesia care for pediatric patients undergoing procedures or surgeries in which they need to be asleep for. Ultimately my job is to give children the best naps of their lives.

Q: In your own words, how would you describe your job to a child?

A: My job is to keep you asleep, comfortable, and safe during your procedure. I’ll be watching you the entire time, while you nap. 

Q: Growing up, what was / were your favorite subject(s) and why?

A: My favorite subjects were always math and science because they came easy to me. Also, I found the information extremely interesting and was able to ask many questions in search of answers. 

Q: How and why did you choose to be a doctor and specifically, why did you choose to specialize in anesthesiology?  Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path?

A: There was no single moment when I realized I wanted to be a doctor, it was a slow evolution over time with my interests and the idea of helping people. Ultimately I chose anesthesiology because I enjoyed the physiology and pharmacology aspects. Many think anesthesiologists do not like patient contact but I disagree. It’s extremely challenging to gain the trust of patients (and their parents), within minutes of meeting me. Patient’s do not get to choose me, like they do their surgeon. Therefore, I must work hard to make them comfortable.Q

Q: What did you study in college? Do you feel that your studies in college are helpful to you in your career now?  How or why?  Did you have a favorite class and why?

A: I received my bachelors of science in zoology from Miami University. At that time, Miami did not offer a basic biology degree, so this was the next best thing. Their rationale was it made you competitive for medical school because it was a “different” major. Afterwards, I attended medical school at the University of Cincinnati

Overall my studies helped me to get where I am today. All of the classes were valuable as they provided a foundation for medical school. My favorite classes were actually the humanities where I learned more about society and people. These classes continue to help me today when interacting with patients. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that a doctor and / or more specifically an anesthesiologist, must have to be successful?

A: I think the most important attribute is the ability to listen. Medicine is challenging due to time constraints and production pressure. Ultimately, the patient doesn’t care where you went to medical school or trained, they care how compassionate you are when you are with them. 

Q: What is or has been the most rewarding part of your job?

A: Everyday, I enjoy being able to interact with children to calm their fears and to safely deliver them back to their parents when the operation is over. 


Q: What is or has been the most challenging part of your job?

A: In pediatrics I have two “customers”, the patient and their parents. Figuring out how to manage both groups expectations can be challenging. 

Q: What was the most fascinating part of your medical school experience? 

A: Working in the cadaver lab and actually being able to touch and learn about every part of the body. To know someone gave up their body for my learning is remarkable. 

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your profession that has happened to you?

A: My favorite part is being able to play at work on a daily basis just to make a child smile.

Q: What would be your advice to a child that has aspirations to become a doctor someday?

A: You will miss out on a lot of fun experiences your other friends will have, but ultimately it’s worth it. Work hard but still have fun along the way. 

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to encourage children that are interested in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines? 

A: A great doctor is always questioning things and ideas. Foster this in your children. 

Thank you so much to Dr. Sean for allowing me to interview him for my blog!

Readers, please let me know what you think of these STEM career interviews and if you have a specific profession in mind that you would like to learn more about! You can leave me a note here, on my social media pages or email me at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

Engineer, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

STEM Careers: Chemical and Materials Engineer Gabi

This is a photo of Gabi at one of the Paint Shops!

Have you ever wondered what an engineer is or what they do?

Meet my friend and former co-worker, Gabi Patrick.  She is a Chemical and Materials Engineer and works as a New Material Technology Project Manager at Toyota Motor North America.  

I recently interviewed her for my blog. Here’s a glimpse into her engineering profession in the automotive industry.

Q: When and how did you become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)? Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path?

A: I have this vivid memory of me asking my Mom about empty space (air). I kept asking my Mom: “Mom, what is this?” <while making circular motions with my hands in the bathroom>. She couldn’t understand what I meant. I think of that question often… and how far it has gotten me. 

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite subject(s)? 

A: I loved math, physics and chemistry. Math to me was like a puzzle to be solved. Physics was more like a hands on game, and chemistry was magic!

Q: In your own words, how would you describe engineering to a child?

A: Engineering is like a big puzzle with nuts, bolts, legos, rubber bands, and a pinch of pixie dust!

Q: What did you study in college and how / why did you choose it/them? 

A: Chemical Engineering & Materials Engineering

When I was in elementary school, my aunt who worked in the polymers industry brought me a bag of plastic pellets. I was fascinated by them, so I decided to follow chemicals the rest of my middle school and high school years. Finally, when it was time to decide a major, I decided on Chemical Engineering. Once I was deep in my college years, I took a class on materials (metals, ceramics and plastics) and decided to focus on materials for my graduate degree, specifically ceramic coatings.

Q: Are your college studies helpful to you in your career now?  How or why?

A: Absolutely. College studies are the backbone to my career and the understanding of my daily responsibilities.  Some days are more technical than others, some days we think about costs, other days we really think about efficiency, or productivity, but without understanding the science behind it, it would be really difficult to get my job done. 

Q: What roles / job titles have you had in the engineering profession and how would you describe them?

A: Storm water engineer: I analyzed how much rain we got and decided the best ways to avoid flooding around the city. Paint Process Engineer: I managed a very long process that coated a vehicle with a rust proof paint. Materials Engineer: I tested new paints to make sure they were the same color by changing how they were applied.  New Materials Technology Project Manager: I collaborate with designers, production engineers and suppliers on the material development before it goes on the vehicle. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that an engineer must have to be successful?

A: Patience, haha… Focus, be a good listener, learn something new every single day, take constructive criticism, and have fun!

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: I get to work with people who have one goal: make the best cars in the world. My job has taught me patience, perseverance, humility, and respect. 

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your career?

A: Learning to accept mistakes and acknowledging failures.  

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your career?

A: My most embarrassing moment, and funny, has been the day I broke a stress toy at work. I had just had a difficult conversation with a superior and became really upset. My coworker handed me a very special stress toy donkey and I broke it in half. Sorry Larry! I’ll buy you a new one. 

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to help their children build confidence and interest in the STEM?  

A: Make it fun. Expose kids to different sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, math, etc.). Use daily, living examples, because in the end, we engineers work on daily living problems. Teach them how to think and solve, instead of ‘copy and repeat’. Focus on project-based learning, ask them to research, go look and understand. 

Q: In conclusion, what else would you like to add for parents reading this?

A: Don’t force a child into liking something specific. Expose them at a young age to all subjects but teach them how to think and solve problems. This is essential for any career, life problem, and eventually success… and please, have fun at it!

If you would like to connect with Gabi, you can find her on LinkedIn under her full name, Gabriela Patrick.

Did you enjoy this interview? Did it give you a better understanding of engineering? Does it help you with teaching your child? Would you like to see more like it?

Let me know at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com or commenting on my social media sites.