By Mary O’KEEFE
The Council on Community Pediatrics annually recognizes community pediatricians with the Community Pediatrics Local Hero Award. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community, the award is presented to individuals who epitomize the “community pediatrician.” The award is presented to two pediatricians annually.
This year one of the recipients of this prestigious award was Crescenta Valley resident Joyce Javier, MD, MPH, MS, FAAP, assistant professor, clinical pediatrics, Dept. of Pediatrics Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.
But that impressive list of credentials is not why Dr. Javier was recognized; it was because of her community involvement to help educate and support not only her young patients but also their entire families.
“I think that I became a pediatrician and public health researcher to be a voice and advocate for youth,” Javier said.
Part of her focus was inspired by what she experienced in her family, and her community, growing up.
“I was raised in a Filipino immigrant family and saw a lot of issues happening in our community and then learned they were happening on a larger scale,” she said.
Reports from both the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization find an increase in Filipinos attempting and committing suicide.
“I think you can feel alone growing up,” Javier said. “You have low self esteem.”
She added that, like many cultures, talking about depression or feelings of low self-esteem are not discussed openly. It is because of this that Javier, along with Dean Coffey, PsyD, Jed David, MS, OT, Horacio Lopez, MD, Aviril Sepulveda, MS, OT and many other community partners, formed Team Kapwa.
According to Team Kapwa’s website, it is a team of a variety of healthcare professionals and community partners whose vision is to create a culture of mental health and healthy parenting in the Filipino community.
“We formed Team Kapwa so we can heal as a family,” she said.
Javier added she focuses on the whole child in the context of the community. Traditional focus is on the physical health of children, but it is important to treat the whole child including his or her mental state. She referred to an article by Amy Morin, “5 Golden Rules for Raising Mentally Strong Kids.” These rules include: Making a family priority to take care of your mind. Talk about feelings. Teach your child how to think realistically. Role model how to take positive action. And actively engage in problem solving.
“And sometimes taking care of your mind [means] going to a therapist,” she added.
Javier wants to change the conversation between parents and grandparents with their children from talking about whether they ate lunch at school to talking – and listening – about what is happening at school.
There are a lot of outside forces affecting kids, not just traditional influences like other kids and television, but today social media has added a whole new component of what kids deal with on a daily basis.
“Mental health is connected to physical health,” Javier added.
Although she would like the focus to be on her work and not on her, this recent award from APP Council on Community Pediatrics is not the only recognition she has received this year. In July, she was named as one of the world’s 100 Most Influential Filipina Women by the Filipina Women’s Network. The award recognizes those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and achievement globally and locally.
Javier hopes these awards will raise awareness of mental health issues within the Filipino community and other communities.