Dr. Carrie Neuhardt rejoices whenever a former patient sends her notice of a high school graduation or another significant milestone in life.
“It’s very exciting, one of the most rewarding things about this field,” said Neuhardt, who is a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at St. Vincent Healthcare.
As a doctor who treats childhood cancer, Neuhardt often becomes very close to the families of her patients.
“You are a part of them forever, even families with children who have passed away. This is one of the few fields in medicine where you make that connection,” she said.
Parents are devastated when they learn that their child has cancer. But the good news is that the overall cure rate for childhood cancer is around 80 percent.
“We’ve made a lot of advancements, and for certain types of cancer there’s an even better survival rate,” Neuhardt said.
Neuhardt was in college when her father was diagnosed with cancer.
“The doctors who took care of him were great, and I think that drove my decision once I got into medical school,” she said.
Neuhardt had volunteered at a children’s hospital, and that also influenced her decision to go into pediatric medicine.
Describe how you got where you are in your work today: I attended medical school in New Orleans, La., then went to Nashville, Tenn., for my three-year pediatric residency. After residency I went to Dallas for a three-year fellowship in pediatric hematology and oncology. I knew before I went to medical school that this is the field I wanted to specialize in and geared my training throughout to gain the most experience with this type of work.
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? It is always very difficult to lose a child to a disease despite everything being done.
What did you learn from that challenge? I learned that my role is more than just treating the disease. My job is helping the child and his or her family through a very difficult process every step of the way. The goal is always a cure, but sometimes that goal becomes altered and transitions to something very different. The importance of offering every family my support, despite having lost children in the past, is a constant reminder that each child and family deserves the best I have to give.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Do what you love. If you love it, then it is no longer work, it is your passion.
Who gave you that advice? A medical school professor many years ago.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I continue to strive to bring better access to medical care here in our community. By improving access we can provide most care here locally instead of sending children away to a different state for weeks to months at a time. This will ease some of the financial and psychosocial burdens that families face when their child is diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? By the response I receive from the families I care for. It is incredibly important for me to feel my patients are well taken care of and know they understand what is happening and what to expect.
Which living person do you most admire? Sheila Moore, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist in Baton Rouge, La. I met her after Hurricane Katrina disrupted my last year of medical school. She took me under her wing and helped me realize what was important and how to get there.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Somehow, I made it through medical school, residency and fellowship with two great kids. I also am so fortunate to have found my passion in a career that pushes me to learn and grow every day.
I’m happiest when I’m… taking care of children and talking to families.