Akron Children’s newest pediatric psychologist Dr. Jeannette Iskander understands the difficulty of treating kids and teens with neurologic disorders, including epilepsy, neuromuscular or other chronic conditions. But, she’s up for the challenge because the easiest part of her job is what she’s most passionate about: interacting with patients and families, hearing their stories and figuring out how she can positively contribute to their journey.
In her new role in Akron Children’s NeuroDevelopmental Science Center, Dr. Iskander will provide psychotherapy to kids in the Inpatient and Day Rehabilitation Programs, as well as those in the epilepsy-monitoring unit. She will spend her days helping kids adhere to their treatment plans and build disease-management skills.
For Dr. Iskander, rising to the challenge of treating difficult cases was an easy decision because of the ultimate reward: reducing the burden of neurologic disease and injury, and improving a child’s quality of life.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s Hospital?
During my time as a graduate student at Kent State University, I completed two practica at Akron Children’s. I loved the culture and atmosphere of the organization and appreciated how well psychology was integrated into medical specialties. I’m very excited to be here!
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
I am a pediatric psychologist in the Inpatient and Day Rehabilitation Programs, as well as on the epilepsy-monitoring unit, which includes kids admitted to the hospital. I provide support to patients and parents during a very stressful time, potentially following an injury or surgery.
I also join co-treatment sessions with physical, occupational and speech therapists to develop strategies to motivate kids who are being asked to complete difficult tasks to better participate in therapy. One of my goals is to build a specialty clinic with neurology for patients with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
My area of expertise is in treatment adherence and self-management across medical populations and age groups. I also have a particular interest in transition readiness, as we prepare adolescents to take on greater responsibility for illness management and transition to adult care. I chose this area of expertise because I love trying to problem solve solutions with patients and families to improve disease outcomes and quality of life.
Do you have a favorite instructor or mentor?
My favorite mentor was the late Dr. Denny Drotar, a world-renown pediatric psychologist whom I worked with previously. Dr. Drotar taught me so much about how to be a pediatric psychologist, including how to best advocate for patients and families and how to systemically think through new clinical and research ideas.
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I want patients and families to know that meeting with a psychologist isn’t as hard or scary as they might think. I hope families know that I care deeply about them and am always making recommendations that are in their best interests … even if it doesn’t always feel that way when I ask them to do really hard things.
What’s the best part of your day?
I love being part of multidisciplinary teams! I think we provide the best patient care when we can work together as a team with individuals from multiple disciplines. I love hearing the perspectives of other team members. I think this helps inform my ability to provide high-quality patient care by synthesizing the information I learn during team meetings, which helps paint a more complete picture of patients and families.
What is the easiest part of your job?
The easiest part of my job is getting to meet and learn about patients and families. I love interacting with others, hearing their stories and figuring out how I can contribute to their journey.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
I enjoy cooking, baking, listening to podcasts, and spending time with family, friends and my pets.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Youngstown, not far from the Mahoning Valley campus.
What’s one thing about you that most people don’t know?
I lived in Egypt for almost one year as a child and I am 50 percent Egyptian!
What’s your favorite quote?
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” – Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
What’s your favorite holiday?
I have always loved Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving! Not only do I love traditional Thanksgiving food, but I also love that it marks a long stretch of get-togethers and celebrations with family and friends (pre-COVID, of course).
What’s the last adventure you went on?
I went to Lake Lure, NC, earlier this year for a wedding. It was so nice to spend time in the mountains celebrating close friends. Plus, we stayed at the same place where members of the cast of “Dirty Dancing” stayed during the filming of the movie.