Meeting People Where They Are
Dr. Catherine Ohmstede pays careful attention not only to patients’ medical symptoms but to their significant life experiences as well.
One of the things that makes Catherine Ohmstede, MD, such an outstanding physician is her willingness to meet people where they are. “In order to truly understand my patients’ needs,” she said, “I have to know their stories.”
Accordingly, Dr. Ohmstede pays careful attention not only to patients’ medical symptoms but to their significant life experiences as well. This compassionate approach is something that comes easily, given the role models she had growing up in Pensacola, Florida.
Her father was an ophthalmologist. Her mother was a medical practice manager. When Dr. Ohmstede attended Davidson College as a pre-med student, she had dozens of choices when thinking about a future specialty. However, after participating in a mentorship program at Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital, she chose pediatrics.
She remembers spending time with a 2-year-old oncology patient with no hair who was walking the floor and pushing an IV pole. It was amazing, she thought at the time, that a child in such a condition could find joy in life. “I realized then,” she said, “I wanted to be able to make a difference for children like that.”
Dr. Ohmstede attended medical school at the University of Florida and served a residency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She later moved to Charlotte in 2006 to join Novant Health Dilworth Pediatrics. The clinic grew steadily, as did her involvement in the community, including service as president of the Charlotte Pediatric Society.
Looking back at 2021, she said her daily routines changed considerably as the pandemic became worse. In particular, she saw a marked increase in behavioral health issues among young people.
“Many kids were fearful they might infect their grandparents. Many suffered badly from the absence of social activities. Others, tragically, were forced to experience grief at an early age, due to the loss of a parent or close relative.”
Fortunately, she added, children tend to be resilient. “I remain optimistic most of them will bounce back better when all of this is behind us.”
Dr. Ohmstede has always made time to provide life coaching to parents. “My goal is to help every parent find joy and acceptance in fulfilling that role,” she said. “To be effective caregivers, parents first need to first take care of themselves and pay attention to things like nutrition, exercise and sleep.”
Dr. Ohmstede has enjoyed watching Hemby Children’s Hospital grow along with the community. This includes the addition of new physical facilities, many made possible by private philanthropy, as well as the growth in new specialties.
The positive relationships between physicians and administrators is what she likes best about Novant Health.
“Physicians are consulted about all important decisions here,” she said, “and that has an incredibly positive impact on the working environment. Also, the organizational culture places a high value on taking good care of ourselves as employees. This helps to keep things stable when a stressor like COVID-19 comes along. Our leaders recognize if we can recharge ourselves, it’s easier to have compassion for others.”
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