March 2023 – Dr. Plastic Picker

Month: March 2023

beginning slide

March 28, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Our family continues to be very fortunate in our lives, and all the interesting projects we are able to participate in. We are still bathing in the glow of our son’s joy over his college admissions, and still awaiting more decisions. But as the children and I hugged last night, we were reminded – it’s important to stay humble. We realize we are a very normal family. And I reminded each of the children, to continue to go forth into the world and emanate love and joy, and do good.

I was a little bit stressed last night. I have a big presentation this morning, and I hadn’t really finalized my talk last night. It didn’t seem the right thing to finish, but I did start it. I used slides from a previous talk and began updating them. And then, I needed to take some time for myself after spending pretty much the entire vacation day off yesterday on climate legislative advocacy and also catching up with charting. So I stretched, took a walk after dinner, and I did some yoga. My daughter has a new passion and she wants me to participate, so I’m working on my strength. I still have a perpetual smile on my face from trying to manifest a different destiny, but I’ll leave that off the blog. It’s just a warm glow and this sense of rightness that in the next decade that event that I’m dreaming of , will happen.

But back to my actual climate advocacy. I’m speaking at 10am to the League of Women Voters San Diego . I entitled the talk “A Pediatrician’s Second Act: Climate and Health Advocacy.” I got to include this meaningful slide

So true.

This morning when I finished the presentation, it went very easily. It’s because I just tell my simple story and then usually talk about three climate projects that I’m working on. Since pretty much all I do is climate work, I always have a lot of images and narratives to choose from.

So what seemed daunting last night when the day was ending, was actually really easy this morning. So I’ll get the kids off to school. These few remaining months of having two high school students in the house are very special, so I’m relishing it all. I’ll take a walk and pick up a bag of plastic around the neighborhood. I’ll give my talk to the League of Women Voters San Diego at 10am-11am. I’ll go to a local Vegan Thai Restaurant to pick up food I ordered for an office party at 1130am. I’ll then drive to the office and deliver the food to the beautiful party room that has already been decorated by the phenomenal nurse Lea that I work with. We will have a party and celebrate someone who is retiring, who I care about as a person quite a bit. And then I’ll work this afternoon and see my patients. My charts were all caught up as of yesterday afternoon! We find out from NYU today. And then I’ll come home and use the pizza dough that I already prepped for dinner and split a dark chocolate bar my daughter and I bought at Trader Joe’s yesterday. Sounds pretty much like the perfect day in the life of your local litter picking pediatrician!

So many college sweatshirts/Tshirts.

March 27, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

The senior is on social media now, so I think it’s fair I share his picture. Plus, this blog’s readership has been so wonderful to follow along as our family has been navigating raising our kids and trying to save the earth at the same time.

I think our college hunt is nearing the end. We are still awaiting 8 more colleges (U Penn, Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, NYU, U Michigran, UC Berkeley) and on the waitlist for 2 schools. But he got into USC and I had no idea that he really wanted USC. If I know you in real life, please stop by and I’ll show you his reaction video. It is truly epic. We are having different discussions and imagining different scenarios, but our son knows his mind and he said frankly unless it’s Harvard, Columbia or Cornell – he’s rather go to USC. His father would rather him choose U Penn or Georgetown, and his sister as well would rather him choose Georgetown. And these are schools he has not even been accepted to. But our oldest is pretty chill, and already thinking about the Valorant tournament he wants to attend in LA and does not want to waste his time going to admit days of schools he is not that excited about. Each admission decision was so precious truly for us as parents. We had back-up plan after back-up plan. I had made vague plans to take the year off and travel the world with him, if he didn’t get into anything but his one safety school.

But I know the college hunt is near the end, because I started looking at costs and my jaw dropped again at how absolutely ridiculous the actual cost of attendance is at USC versus UCSD. It’s 60K difference!!! It makes absolutely no sense to choose USC over UCSD if you were looking at cost. But we will pay for it, since we’ve been saving from the time I was pregnant with him and Mr. Plastic Picker and I are relatively young and working almost full time and otherwise live very frugal lives. I think of private school tuition as Mr. Plastic Picker’s entertainment budget. The father in this family will work whatever overtime he needs and forgo all the usual fancy doctor vacations to send the only son of the only son of the only son to USC.

But now I’m looking at the little one and she says she wants to be a lawyer! Geez Louise, I just double checked the cost of attendance to her target law school. I know she is only 14, but one needs to plan.

That’s crazy! I guess I should keep on working. I don’t mind. I really love being a pediatrician. So if you see me in real life, I’ll show you the reaction video. It truly is epic!

86 hits on the lead testing and mitigation testimony

March 22, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

I’m just living my life. I just finished another really cool interaction/interview with Dr. April Moreno from the Public Health Podcast Network I talked about my advocacy and leaded aviation fuel pollution and leaded drinking water, and also the upcoming San Diego Heat and Human Health Summit that a group of us are organizing. I’ve started and deleted several blogposts in the last week. I’ve had to email many wonderful people and sometimes those emails are like mini-blogpost. So by the time I return to the blogpost that I’ve started, the words are gone. They are used up.

But even starting to type a new blogpost that never gets published, does help. It helps just to start, to start typing something. I realize there are people listening. 86 clicked on the ab 249 testimony. I just cut and pasted what I said at the committee hearing. It was my perspective as a front-line pediatrician who is decently knowledgeable about lead and has co-authored one article on lead pollution advocacy. I don’t pretend to be the world’s expert, but I also live my truth and know that I care and that this particular issue pertains to me and the children in my practice.

Being honest is really important. Honestly is underrated. I was talking to a young pediatrician who was seeking life-advice, and he asked me about my path. And I told him that I veered from the standard leadership path in our HMO because of my need to be true to my values and to be honest with myself. I also demand honestly in others that I work with. I know I come from a place of privilege in that I haven’t had to make myself work or associate with too many people who I find dishonest. As a child, my parents gave me the cover to avoid those folks. And you know what, it’s okay. It’s okay in your family life and your volunteer life to choose surround yourself with those that embody love and caring and positivity.

I was hugging our freshman last night and I realize that I’ve set a good example for her. She told me “I’m glad you have sheltered me. I’m glad I’m in a bubble.” And within that bubble my children and my students and those that I love, can be given the freedom to imagine the world that they deserve. I know the stark reality about the ugliness in the world. Certainly I do. I’m a pediatrician. But I also know there is absolute beauty and goodness out in the universe. And if you are one of my friends that I’ve sent long-winded emails to, thank you for being part of that beauty and goodness.

She gave me a hug before the testimony.

March 14, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

On behalf of my committee and pediatricians, I urge your committee to vote Yes on AB 249. My main job is in clinic and I am a front line pediatrician for 2000 families.  Indeed, most of our membership within the AAP are that, your community pediatricians who treat our state’s children.

I am here to remind you that lead is a Pediatric Neurotoxin, and it’s an accumulative neurotoxin and it is stored in bones and teeth and never leaves the body. Children are uniquely susceptible to even low lead levels which can lower IQ and cause learning and behavioral problems which, in turn, elevate costs in health care, education, and criminal justice.

The reason I am here is very personal. I see the effects of lead pollution in real-life in my clinic, as I do increasing number of evaluations for children with ADHD and autism, prescribe more and more stimulants and have more children on antipsychotics to address behavioral issues  – and try to help families navigate the difficult world of special education and medical services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA services. As my work day is filled with the increasing demands of these children who need our help, I can’t help but remember that much of that chaos that has been caused could have been averted if we had addressed leaded drinking water earlier.

Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as birth malformations. There are astronomical economic costs from the negative impacts from exposure to lead by everyone. For every dollar spent on controlling lead hazards, it is estimated that $100 would be returned in health benefits, increased IQ, higher lifetime earnings, tax revenue, reduced spending on special education, and reduced criminal activity.

Children at highest risk are the very young (including the developing fetus) and the economically disadvantaged. This is because undernourished children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies absorb more lead if other nutrients, such as calcium or iron, are lacking.

Lets not wait to address the clear danger of leaded drinking water in our schools that threaten our states’ future. It’s not fair to those children attending those schools now, and it’s simply not fair as it’s likely children in environmental justice communities.

Picture she approved to be shared.

March 10, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

The little one approved this picture. I have more glamorous ones of her posing and being pretty and fourteen is her first real Vietnamese ao dai, a cute beacher romper and so forth and so forth, but this one is the one I want to remember. It was just the two of us visiting my parents when she found out about being accepted to this council. I just shared on the San Diego Women’s Facebook Group.

“Wanted to share because of what my daughter told me. I’m so proud of her. She was selected as 1 or 12 girls (there were 100 applicants) to serve on the Youth Advisory Council for the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. This is a well respected bipartisan and established council that advises our state on legislation and issues that are important to women. The YAC was formed to bring youth voices. She wrote in her essay about the importance of reproductive rights, prevention of family violence and legislation needed to ensure workplace equities for mothers namely pay equity. She deservedly is feeling proud of herself balancing all her activities and academics, but she said “I’m pretty awesome but that’s because you’re awesome.” She’s seen me struggle through work balance issues, and trying to figure out how to move the climate work forward in San Diego and all the joys and frustrations. And it’s because I’m a mommy doctor and I talk about issues, so many issues. She’s doing her Girl Scout Gold Award on raising awareness on the history of sexual violence during WWII and Korean “Comfort Women” through ceramic art. Sometimes I question the amount of time I spend volunteer mentoring and the climate work, but I realize I can do this because there are other loving adults around her doing the same for her. She told me while we were in Hawaii visiting my parents, “California is pretty awesome.” And I told her, yes California is pretty awesome. Thank you for letting me share. She’s the baby I had in fellowship and the one I had when I questioned so many of life’s choices. I’m most proud of being her momma.”

And this happened in Hawaii. We had five glorious days with my parents, where she was the center of attention. She has come back stronger, well rested, filled with stories and Vietnamese language and Vietnamese food. She made so many memories together with us. I can picture the after now. The after when it’s her advocacy, her activism, her career and her real-life kdrama. And it’s because she shared that with the three of us.

She road in it, it’s all electric.

One of the best parts I wasn’t even around for. I haven’t seen the videos yet. I’ll look after she wakes up, as we are back in somewhat gloomy San Diego today.

But she got to ride is this all electric Akimoto up and down Waikiki as her grandfather was enjoying having a cute 14 year old in the backseat. They were getting donuts at Leonards, and the squeezed into a tiny parking spot. She said her grandfather wasn’t scared of anyone, and it was fun getting some attention. I guess these two apples don’t fall far from the tree. Oh yeah, we also own a solar farm now LOL.

The drive home.

March 1, 2023

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Am I 짜증나 (annoyed)? Yes I am. It took me a long time and all of my professional accomplishments to get into that board room. I forgot briefly how long it took me to get into that board room, about the 10 years in middle management, meeting the metrics, the burn out, and the rebirth. And then I ran for retirement committee on a clear divestment/ESG platform. I was honest and upfront about my goals for running for retirement committee. I won with a majority of support of over 700 physicians. And someone in a suit that is not a doctor looked at me, and equated wanting an index target fund that was ESG to a niche financial ask. He looked at me and he was annoyed, and I was polite and annoyed back. I followed the rules. Mr. Plastic Picker took the day off to drive me all the way to Pasadena for this meeting. I met everyone and shook hands. They know I am the Green Team/Sustainability Team co-lead here. They know I am a climate and health advocate. I shook hands and made myself physically known to someone else who has a big title in our organization. I’m sure I annoyed him too, and he annoyed me. We know we are on opposite sides right now in this discussion.

I realize I’m a fiduciary. But I will say it again, I AM ALSO AN EARTHLING. That is it. I’ll continue to show up at this committee meeting. Everything passes by unanimous vote anyway. Honestly I’ve been on so many committees and we are rubber stamping things that two people have already decided they want to do. That someone (namely a younger female pediatrician) dared show up and make the rubber stamping a bit harder probably annoyed them. But guess what, CLIMATE CHANGE ANNOYS ME!!! And sometimes men annoy me quite a bit. I am a SHE who prefers HEs, but sometimes those HEs can be so ANNOYING!!!

But I had two great climate projects , a writing project and our H3 SD Summit to move forward. I got to send emails out to those two groups that not shockingly are mostly SHES!!! The entire time I was looking at those annoying two HEs yesterday, I was thinking that I’ve 100% worked more than they have. Between being a working pediatrician mother and picking up litter. I have more years of training and I’m certain I had higher SAT and MCAT scores. I’m pretty sure my networth is higher. And I realized yesterday that real estate is a climate-safe investment as well. The price of timber went up 400% which is why our Oregon farm has been a great buy!!!! I think that outperformed those investments that are tainted in oil and coal.

Thank you for listening. I’m less 짜증나 annoyed now. Yes I realize we can all get sued as fiduciaries although it’s never happened in the committee’s history. I realize the fear mongering. I have a large umbrella insurance policy, thank you very much as well. But what is more likely, is the seven fold increase in extreme heat events. I have a plan to move forward with this issue. It’s such an important issue. I think I’m just going to keep on showing up to these meetings and annoy these two men. Because as a pediatrician and as a mother, this is for my children and actually for theirs as well. Aaaarrgggghhh. It’s raining today which I remind you is due to atmospheric rivers and the wetter seasons are wetter and the dry seasons are more dry. I have 3 months until I have to annoy those two HEs again at the next quarterly meeting.