Knowledge Is Power

by on July 1, 2006 - 2:52pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 4

Dr. Wafa Nasser, 52

Dr. Wafa Nasser

Covington, Ky.

Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy; diagnosed at age 24, with symptoms since early 1970s

Nasser, who graduated from West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown in 1981, has been a pediatrician for 22 years. She opened her private practice in Florence, Ky., in 1998. Nasser relies on her three-wheeled, motorized scooter to get around her accessible office and her home. She has noticed mild, progressive weakness over the years.

While Nasser was in medical school one of her professors, the head of neurology, gave her the diagnosis — over the telephone. Nasser went into a deep depression, believing both her life and her career were over. When Nasser finally met with the professor face-to-face, he explained that she still could accomplish her goals and become a doctor because even if she had weak muscles, all she needed was a strong mind. That vote of confidence made a huge difference to Nasser.

Today, the experience of receiving her diagnosis over the phone plays a major role in how Nasser approaches her patients’ daily care. “I don’t tell people things over the phone,” she said. “I tend to spend more time explaining things to the parents, and working with them and the children.”

Dr.    Wafa Nassar tending to a child
From her motorized scooter, pediatrician Wafa Nasser evaluates the reflexes of Daniel Powell, 12, in one of her scooter-accessible examination rooms.

On working with children:
Nasser finds her work extremely rewarding, and says she can’t get enough hugs from her patients. Her practice’s name, the Whole Child Pediatrics, emphasizes her focus on each child’s medical, family and social issues. “I love watching them grow. It’s one of the best parts of the job,” she said.

“Most of the kids that know me just want to figure out what buttons to press on my scooter. The kids that don’t know me ask why I’m in the scooter. I just tell them that my muscles are very weak, and that I’m not lucky like they are to be able to run, jump and walk.”

On overcoming roadblocks:
“Don’t give up on your dreams. It takes even more hard work from those of us who have a physical disability, but if there’s something you want, go after it.

“Keep your family around you because that is such a major support.... It really made all the difference in the world.”

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