Whole-child care: The joy & positivity in integrative pediatrics
AIHM Member Spotlight: Nagaratina Salem and Angelika Rampal
By AIHM Membership Manager Kelsey Misbrener
“I ask THEM what’s wrong!”
Parents of Angelika Rampal’s patients are often surprised when instead of turning to them and asking what’s wrong with the child, the Reston, Virginia-based pediatrician stoops down and asks the child, “Why do YOU think your tummy hurts?”
More times than not, the child is able to reveal to her why this is happening.
“Well, my stomach hurts when I go to school because Billy teases me,” Angelika gives an example.
Thirteen hundred miles away, Austin, Texas-based integrative pediatrician and fellow AIHM member Nagaratina Salem uses the same method.
“When they come in, if they are old enough to talk, I talk to the kids,” Nagaratina said. “I ask them what’s wrong. I don’t ask the parents.”
Nagaratina wants to hear the kids talk to make them feel more independent and in charge of their own health.
Though the communication with patients from age three and up is often very informative, it’s also very heartwarming and hilarious too for both doctors.
Once, a three-year-old child whose baby sister was Angelika’s patient stopped what she was doing and taught Angelika a very important fact:
“Dr. Angel, you may not realize this, but mommy’s boobies make milk.”
Nagaratina, who, like Angelika, is of Indian descent, gets great joy out of her pediatric patient’s point of view too. One five-year-old, who had two Caucasian parents, was looking through a book in Nagaratina’s office. She said she would like to have two younger brothers, and one of them should be brown.
Journey to integrative medicine
Perhaps owing to their Indian heritage, Angelika and Nagaratina grew up around home remedies and alternative health options.
Nagaratina shifted to integrative medicine about two years ago, and Angelika has been using alternative techniques since 2008.
Nagaratina was feeling unfulfilled giving her patients prescriptions and sending them on their way, especially those with chronic conditions. So when she heard about the ABIHM board exam in April 2014, she eagerly took the chance to learn more about integrative medicine.
Now, as an ABIHM-certified pediatrician, she feels much more satisfied, since she’s able to offer her patients combinations of home remedies and traditional care. For example, instead of telling a patient with allergies to take one over-the-counter pill, she might suggest as a first resort a combination of honey, botanicals and vitamin C.
Angelika’s path to integrative medicine was confirmed through a father who brought his son to see her at the hospital where she worked right after residency in 2008.
The man was so thankful for her whole-person approach to his son, Laith, who had significant issues that required surgical intervention.
Angelika humbly responded that she was just one person doing her part.
The father said, “Laith is just one person too. In this world, you may be just one person, but to one person, you’re the whole world. And to me, Laith is my whole world.”
He left her with a poignant line she’s never forgotten: “It’s your duty to make sure you’re taking care of the whole person.”
Angelika said it was that man who put the positive burden on her to be a good doctor. She took the ABIHM board exam in October the same year.
Choosing a pediatric specialty was easy for both Angelika and Nagaratina.
“As a med student, I was drawn to the cerebral aspect of pediatrics, but then the love that was there, too,” Angelika said.
The defining moment for her was when the hospital threw a birthday party for a boy undergoing chemotherapy for a bone tumor.
The nurses brought food, and the doctors stopped by to say hi and cut the cake. Angelika said you don’t see such things in the adult ward.
Nagaratina always preferred being surrounded by children rather than adults, so pediatrics was an easy choice for her.
Her favorite part of her job is being surrounded by the positive energy that kids bring to her office.
One of her patients, a toddler she’s been seeing for a while, stands out in her mind. Whenever she walks into the room, he jumps around, and is happy and eager to tell Nagaratina what’s new in his life. This past visit, he told her about his family’s recent vacation to San Francisco. He sat down in her lap as he told her about the fish he saw. His mom told her he doesn’t often sit in laps, so she felt especially joyous.
“It makes the whole day worthwhile,” Nagaratina said.
Nagaratina Salem, MD, received her Medical Degree from Kilpauk Medical College in Chennai, India, in 1993. Dr. Salem completed her first 2 years of pediatric residency in New York, and her third year at University of Texas HSC, El Paso, where she received a “Resident of the Year” award.
Later, Dr. Salem practiced in Athens providing comprehensive pediatric care and moved to Plano in 2001. She worked as a locum physician, gaining diverse experiences in many practices across the Dallas-Fort Worth area before establishing her own practice, “Kiddie Docs,” in 2004.
Dr. Salem married in 1995 and has two sons, Sanjay and Surya.
Dr. Salem is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the ABIHM and has completed her MBA in Healthcare Management from University of Texas at Dallas.
Angelika Rampal, MD, FAAP, received her undergraduate degree from Stanford and attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego. She completed her residency and was chief resident at UCLA Medical Center.
She became board certified in pediatrics in 2005 and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She earned an additional board certification in integrative and holistic medicine in 2008.
After residency, she joined the faculty at UCLA and practiced there for several years prior to joining Reston Town Center Pediatrics in 2010.