Growing up in a very rural area of Northern California, Kris Deeter, M.D., may not have had as many of the opportunities as her peers—not even going to the doctor regularly— but she never let that hold her back. Her upbringing taught her the importance of gratitude, grit and welcoming every opportunity that came her way. After years of preparation meeting opportunity, she holds not one, not two, but four impressive titles: Medical Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Renown Regional Medical Center, Corporate Medical Director at MEDNAX over the Pediatric Hospitalist and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit programs, Department Chair of Medical Staff at Renown and Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Nevada at Reno.
Dr. Deeter was committed to her goals at a young age. She is proud to be a Head Start alumna as she believes this was the first opportunity that put her on the road to academic success. As one of the top two students in her high school graduating class, she received a full-ride scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Deeter says this was a significant moment as not many people went to college or even left her hometown. When asked about why she chose medicine, she remembers always knowing she wanted to work in pediatrics, but she didn’t find her true calling until medical school in New York. There, she developed an interest in pediatric HIV and infectious diseases while volunteering to help during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Throughout her medical training, she was afforded many opportunities, several of which served the underserved.
After medical school, she and her military husband were moved around the country. She worked in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in San Antonio with predominantly Spanish-speaking patients paying back the National Health Service Corps scholarship that helped with medical school tuition. In Georgia, she developed a hospitalist program and expanded her private practice’s acceptance of Medicaid and military insurance. She later went to Seattle for ICU fellowship training, and then strengthened her clinical skills in practice in South Florida. While in Florida, she joined the Florida Medical Association (FMA), where she was part of many initiatives, including the push to require booster seats in the state. She became the Vice President of the Broward County Pediatric Society and sat on the Legislative Committee of the FMA after completing their Leadership Academy. Dr. Deeter also continued serving the underserved. She took four trips to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. She also became a board member for a women’s and children’s hospital in Bangladesh. All of the other board members were Bangladeshi men, so working with this team, she learned about the Muslim religion, the people and the food of South Asia. Dr. Deeter strives to thrive with her peers despite cultural barriers; she says it comes down to acceptance and an outlook for an opportunity.
Leadership opportunities back home
When the occasion arose for Dr. Deeter to join the MEDNAX team as a Medical Director in Reno, Nevada, it was an easy decision.
“I tell people all the time-- it’s my dream job!” she exclaims. She was initially drawn to the hospital to be closer to home, but she also saw potential and many opportunities to grow the program. The hospital was already developing its child health initiatives, work in food insecurity and homelessness, and child development programs. She felt it was “a place where you could see the impact of the good you were doing.”
When she arrived, the hospital had just received a large grant to hire more pediatricians and subspecialists. They have already added 28 in only four years. As the program matures, Dr. Deeter focuses on renovating, revising and reforming from her administrative positions. The city and practice have grown rapidly and have allowed Dr. Deeter to share and expand her vision. Expressing her satisfaction with the role, she says, “I finally feel like I’m in a place where I’m able to do everything I’ve been trained to do.”
She also speaks to the value of a large organization. Though there is often a perception of becoming lost in a large organization, she’s seen the benefits. She has never felt more supported by an organization—from her ICU team members to the highest leadership in Pediatrix. There is a strong network at MEDNAX that she hasn’t found in other organizations. At a local level, she loves her team and praises them for their hard work and passion for patient care.
Developing a patient care model
Dr. Deeter says an influential moment in shaping how she practices came from her time as a patient in the ICU six years ago. It made her more aware of the patient perspective and what patients see and hear. She was reminded of the importance of taking time to get to know your patients and explaining procedures and action plans.
Along with her experience as a patient, she says that becoming a parent has given her a whole new perspective as a pediatrician. Performing procedures or even giving a child a shot has a different impact. She now feels like she can truly empathize with what many moms are going through and instantly connect with them, which influences her personal care model.
Most importantly, Dr. Deeter expresses the importance of the entire team in creating a patient-centered care model that supports what they do best—taking care of the whole child. They make it a point to have every member of the care team at the bedside during rounds. The team members are excited to be there and included in the care model. Dr. Deeter knows this is critical for communication and, above all, for parents who see how invested the team is in providing excellent care for their child.