By: Alexis Mays Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Dr. Marita Rafael has known what her career would be since she was a child, and it turned out to be something that helps countless children. Dr. Rafael is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Over her 19 years at Driscoll, she has tended to a wide gamut of cases. “We see spans from colds and flus to serious injuries and traumas,” she says, “and my patients range from babies to teenagers to young adults.”
Encouraged by her supportive family, Dr. Rafael studied to be a doctor in her home country of the Philippines. As she entered her career, she instantly clicked with pediatrics. “Children are resilient. They recover very fast from illness or injury, and it gives me a profound fulfillment and joy to see them bounce back and carry on their life,” she describes. “That’s what made me want to go into pediatrics.”
Although the young may be resilient, there is no doubt that Dr. Rafael’s individualized approach plays a big part in their quick recovery. With each child, she applies the ‘art’ of pediatrics. “I call it the ‘art of medicine’ because you tailor treatments for each patient,” she explains. Her passion, education, and years of experience indicate that she is a very skilled artist.
Dr. Rafael is also passionate about helping area youth both inside and outside the hospital walls.
She is an avid proponent of the Shattered Dreams demonstration. This realistic, community-wide trauma drill shows kids, teens, and young adults the dire dangers of drinking and driving, riding with a drunken friend, and texting while driving. “These demonstrations must continue,” Dr. Rafael urges. “Showing the real dangers saves lives.” The recent demonstration, which included mock traumas in the emergency room, was an eye-opening experience. All those who gathered to see how Dr. Rafael operates during critical moments know that she is prepared to handle any incident in the ER.
This knowledge is something Dr. Rafael hopes to pass on to residents at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. She is passionate about working with these doctors, and the experience is especially rewarding because the learning is a two-way street.” Working with residents is great because they learn from you, and you learn from them,” Dr. Rafael states. “We are sharing our knowledge with each other and giving pearls of wisdom from experiences.”
Dr. Rafael’s reach is exponentially multiplied when her wide gamut of knowledge and skills is passed on to the next generation of pediatric physicians. Perhaps one of the most important teachings that she demonstrates is her compassion. Dr. Rafael wants parents to know that when their children are with her, they’re in good hands. “As a parent, it’s easy for me to relate to parents. I’ve gone through it, so I can empathize with what they are feeling when their children are sick or injured,” she says. “I always tell them, I treat my patients as if (they were) my own family.”