MDs Making Eco-Choices (Interviews) – Dr. Plastic Picker

Category: MDs Making Eco-Choices (Interviews)

Snowy Egret. Graceful, elegant.

June 16, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Hey Rachel. We miss you a lot. All of us miss you. A bunch of emails are going around the department listserv and people are saying memories and their goodbyes. Not much grand-standing or politiking, I think because most of us know you could not stand that crap. I haven’t replied to the email chain because it seemed so inadequate. I posted a cryptic message on Instagram that was heartfelt and Saadia saw it, and replied. Gosh, you’ve left such a big hole in our department. For those that don’t know me in real life, one of our colleages a well respected pediatrician died after a year and a half battle with cancer. She was young.

Thanks for letting me interview you for my blog a long time ago. You were nature defender, pediatrician #5. I hadn’t interviewed many people after you. I think because you were a hard act to follow.

I was in the nurses triage room at Otay, and there is just a bit of quietness. They all worried about you, asked how you were doing. I never really knew all the details of your illness, and I know that you know – it’s because I didn’t want to overstep the work/friend boundaries. I don’t make friends easily. You knew I was there when you needed me. Jong and I emailed a final message to all the nuclear medicine doctors that helped you get those PET scans scheduled asap. I knew you knew I was there when you needed me. I thanked them for you, and included a short few senteces about how much you meant to all of us and the kids you took care of.

It really sucks. #cancersucks I can think of many other people I’d rather died of cancer than you. I’m being morbid and dark now, but you understand I know. We vented a lot together. You called it how it was. But I have to say that at those migraine-inducing early morninng leadership meetings with all the clinic leads, you always seemed a glass half-empty kind of person. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been your biggest fan, but you were kind of intimidating. Remember when I sent you a sketch of how I thought we could fix afterhours with mock schedules for the 3 urgentologist. OMG, your response was fierce. You essentially ripped me to pieces. I almost peed in my pants! That is true. I mean you trained at Wash U one of the best pediatric training programs in the country and one of the few people at our HMO who knew who Will Keenan was. That man was scary and you survivied a training program that had that brilliant pediatrician questioning your every GI decision. I bow down to you Rachel. You are a better pediatrician than me, which given how fundamentally arrogant I am – is saying a lot.

But your battle with cancer showed me that you aren’t a glass half-empty kind of person. You were tenanciously holding onto life and hope and fighting this cancer injustice every step of the way. It was really passion you had. I was telling Melissa in the lunchroom yesterday, she’s not doing too well by the way. But I was telling her that you were fierce.

What I will remember mostly about you is how fiercely you fought for the young doctors. You advocated for them. You cared so much about them, that you made the rest of us with any sort of decision making responsibility – care as well. I think that is why there is a quietness when we are all thinking of you right now. We are reflecting on how you fundamentally made us all better. This is not a platitude when written about you. It is absolutely true.

This is my blog goodbye, my friend. I’ve cried so much for you. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s all those beach walks. We never got to pick trash together as we talked about. Thanks for being there for all of us doing this climate work. Co-signing all those letters. Being there for moral support for us. I’ll be seeing your family still, and I’m so lucky to know that I’ll get to watch your nieces grow up. Your family are environmentalists, and intertwined with mine as we try to save the earth. Your niece is beautiful by the way. I always thought you were beautiful and thought it was a shame you didn’t have daughters yourself, as they would have been beautiful. But you did have children, your nieces, your patients, and all the young doctors that you helped mentor. I’ve written this last blog post but I will repeat it again. There is no way that souls aren’t recycled. Everything is reused in nature. I think you will be reborn as this graceful egret, it reminds me of you. Lets meet in the next life and work together again. #cancersucks and you are a work friend that changed me and made me better. I can’t imagine the pain your parents are going through now. You were their baby girl who has died before them. But I hope in the next life, you will be again their daughter and the brilliant beautiful fierce person you were in this life. Good-bye my friend.

Spewing carbon, but not lightly.

April 26, 2022

by Dr. Plastic Picker

Like many I’ve flown many times. At some points, we were very bicostal. My sister and I were studying college and graduate school in New England and our family home was in Southern California. Then trying to maintain familial relationships with all our New York relatives when Mr. Plastic Picker and I relocated our family back to San Diego required flying. But with the COVID pandemic, most of us stopped flying. I flew for just the second time in the last three years to Denver this last weekend, double masked at the end and only furtively taking sips of water when I felt dehydrated. I don’t fly lightly or without reason especially since there is still COVID and especially since I know it’s spewing carbon into the air.


Dr. Young-Ho Yoon and his son several years ago.

October 7, 2020

by drplasticpicker

Dr. Plastic Picker has given me the gift of reconnecting with friends. We are going through this period of shared panic and grief, and now action regarding the climate. Recently I checked back in with Dr. Young-Ho Yoon, who will forever be my senior resident from Mans Greatest Hospital. He continues to work as an outpatient private practice pediatrician in the Boston area, and being the center of his community of family, friends and patients. Pediatricians are powerful and connected figures. His is also living in a two-MD household and we were sharing common frustrations of educating kids during the pandemic. He shared with me some pretty awesome spreadsheets regarding different childcare options, that is just how organized and precise his mind is. Remember, he is the senior resident that drilled into me proper fluid management and a love of renal physiology. To this day, it has remained a strength for me and I hardly every need to IV a patient as I vigorously push oral rehydration because I know the details on Sodium and Potassium concentrations for most intravenous and oral solutions and common foods/drinks and can explain it well to parents. We had a beloved renal attending who would always look at urine samples for the residents at any time of day, and I was sent several times from the inpatient floor by Dr. Young-Ho when I was an intern to bring the urine sample to this attending’s lab. Dr. Linshaw would call it liquid gold. I often tell that story to my patients when I ask for urine samples, and I think of Dr. Linshaw and Young-Ho when I think of how much a urine sample can tell you about someone’s health.


Lori with a group of environmentalist biking to the Arctic Circle. Lori is so cool. I’ve never quite had a mentor like her. Environmentalists in general are super cool people.

September 2, 2020

by drplasticpicker

An unexpected gift of embarking on Dr. Plastic Picker a year ago is the mentors I have gained along this journey. Dr. Lori Byron is one of my environmental mentors that I met through the American Academy of Pediatrics. She leads the national group of pediatric climate advocates that represents all our states and territories, and corrals our group toward national action on climate change. Dr. Lori Byron is past president of the Montana AAP Chapter, and spent most of her career practicing in the Indian Health Service. She is semi-retired now, and spends most of her time coordinating climate action within our profession. But most importantly, she is encouraging and kind and experienced. She has guided me through my fits and starts on climate activism. I sometimes feel like a college freshman, emailing her our small wins and awaiting words of encouragement via email. Most importantly, she is so cool! Here she is in the picture above biking in the Arctic Circle.


Just a screenshot that inspired me. I feel like I had the tiniest part in nudging this wonderful person behind Doc Mom Inspired to start writing again! So I take a little bit of itty bitty credit. Because it is true, true leaders create more leaders.

August 14, 2020

by drplastpicker

I’m tickled pink (or yellow LOL ) this morning to be profiled on a fellow pediatrician’s blog DOCMOMINSPIRED. Her mission statement is to inspire the community around her. She writes on her blog “Every day, people are making the conscious choice to do more and be better for their communities and our environment . . . Doc Mom Inspired wants to recognize thoughtful, inspiring people. Hopefully, their words and actions will inspire you to move forward in your own creative way.” And with that, this creative pediatrician reached out to little old me to be interviewed.


Dr. Luis Castellanos’ kids are active recyclers, and helping their parents at home!

August 10, 2020

by drplasticpicker

Happy Monday everyone! It has been six months since our last MD Interview on this blog. Our last interview was Dr. Naomi Lawrence-Reid who is still out there living an environmentally oriented life and being all sorts of fabulousness. I think she was recently on NPR? If you know me in real life, you know how hard it is to top Dr. Naomi Lawrence-Reid in my subjective ranking of people I adore. So it’s taken me six months to get enough enthusiasm to profile another MD. I think you will see the six months wait was worth it!

With this blog, I go with the flow of nature and life. I allow circumstances to tell me what and who to blog about. Life brought me back to one of our good friends, Luis Castellanos. Dr. Luis Castellanos, Mr. Plastic Picker and I went to medical school together. We are friends with his family (including gorgeous wife and three rambunctious sons) in real life. Dr. Dear Friend is their pediatrician. And my sister is good friends with their family as well, as she worked as a Law School Advisor with his wife. So our lives are intertwined in real authenic ways.


Injured butterfly I saw yesterday. I think the little guy made it.

July 26, 2020

by drplasticpicker

There are a lot of environmental advocacy groups out there. Now we started another one, our American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Climate Change and Health Committee for our local chapter. There was a California bill AB 345 the oil and gas setbacks bill. Between the AAP Climate Change and Health coalition of all 4 California chapters, Climate Health NOW (which overlaps with many AAP Climate Change members), PHAC and Climate Action Campagins, and Climate Reality Leadership Group and my just being on the litter-picking Instagram committee – I literally received 20 emails about this. I had already signed a personal letter, and had already sent it to our committee. Our AAP Climate Change and Health local chapter already endorsed it. Bruce Bekkar is writing a letter on behalf of PHAC Climate Action Campaigns. And now we need individual members to lobby specific state representatives about it. And during our Climate Reality Training first local meeting, it came up again. And I get it, this one is important. The elephant in the room is climate emmissions, and this helps reduce emissions. There are a lot of climate groups and a lot of concerned citizens, and we all want the same thing.


A dear friend bringing joy to all of those around her. She was in Maui. This is the picture I got back when I texted her about whether she wanted to pick up an extra shift one night. LOL. The commute was too far that day!

February 15, 2020

by drplasticpicker

There are those rare people in life that embody joy and happiness. They are sometimes irreverent but always positive, and make those of us who are staid middle-aged middle-managers look at events and people from a different angle, maybe even upside down! And when one of those rare people is a MD, than they are even closer to unicorn status.


Introducing Harish Joshi, CleanupGuy and Litter Picker and community organizer and overall great-teenager from Nepal. He is now part of @drplasticpicker (until he gets his own blog going but we hope he stays) and will be blogging regularly every Thursday at “Harish Joshi: Thursday Trash Reflections from Nepal.”

February 13, 2020

by Harish Joshi

Hello! My name is Harish Joshi. I am from Nepal. I am 18 and a high school graduate. This is my first blog which is about my journey of environmental activism.

Like many of us, I sometimes used to think about the environment in my childhood. But these thoughts used to fade away after a while. There is no proper waste management system in my village. When I used to study in grade 9, I made a dustbin in my house for the first time. There aren’t much dustbins in the towns. The condition is worse in villages. People are not much aware about pollution here. But slowly this is changing. This is the current situation here.


Lake Morraine – Alberta, Canada. I asked Dr. Guest to send her favorite recent photo of nature. Photo credit by Dr. Rachel Guest.

January 12, 2020

by drplasticpicker

I want to introduce you to Dr. Rachel Guest who is the fifth in this series of interviews with Pediatricians who are either “drplasticpickers” or more importantly defenders of our environment. She is the fifth but certainly I would say honestly one of our fiercest pediatricians who are environmental defenders. Pediatricians are natural allies to the children fighting for the environment, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated children will bear the brunt of the effects of climate change.

I have known Dr. Rachel Guest for almost 10 years. There are a handful of colleagues I trust enough to see my own children, and indeed she saw our daughter just yesterday afternoon. Dr. Plastic Picker is ever honest, and Dr. Rachel Guest is known in our department as a fierce and passionate person. I have been in many work meetings with her, and she has a very clear sense of who she is, the state of the world and what is right and what is wrong. I honestly have always enjoyed working with her. I like colleagues who push me to be better, and she drives those all around her to excel. It makes sense to me that she has always wanted to care for our sickest children. She has always worked in the more acute care settings: Pediatric Emergency Room, as a Pediatric Hospitalist and is one of the lead phyisicans in our Pediatric After Hour Clinics.