Expert Care Guides Adolescents to Be Their Best Selves
Anisha Abraham, M.D., M.P.H. is chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s National Hospital. Her work spans specialty and primary care for kids and young adults ages 12 through 21. During the last 25 years, Dr. Abraham held a variety of clinical, teaching, public health and leadership roles in Washington, D.C., and internationally. She serves as an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The George Washington University and has two teenage sons.
Why did you decide to work with adolescents?
Dr. Abraham: My dad was a psychiatric social worker for adolescents for 50 years. We grew up with young people all around us. A lot of his work with teenagers fueled my own interest.
Adolescence is this beautiful time of identity formation -- physically, sexually and culturally. I grew up as an Indian American, the first to graduate from my high school in Delaware and at times struggled to know where I fit in culturally. This experience inspired me to help ensure adolescents thrive.
What is the long-term impact of improving adolescent health care?
Dr. Abraham: When you connect with adolescents and get them to open up, you can make an incredible difference in their lives. That’s why I want to make sure we support them beyond the medical issue that brought them to seek care.
Helping a young person has generational impact. In fact, 80% of what we know causes chronic illness or death in adulthood, such as substance abuse, depression or obesity, have roots in teen years. Adolescence is a really important time to for us to invest in well-being. We want to make sure that kids and teenagers do well. As they become adults who have children, they can have healthier families.
How do your patients inspire you?
Dr. Abraham: Adolescence is a fundamentally joyful and exciting period. Teens are at the peak of learning from new experiences. I’m always learning about the things my patients are passionate about and how they want to create change in the world.
For example, patients often tell me about their plans to become an astronaut or president and so many other inspiring things. They have all these dreams and then also face heavy challenges and difficult experiences, such as a trauma or anxiety that drives an eating disorder. Children’s National is the place where people can get all the resources and support to achieve their full potential.
How can philanthropy help?
Dr. Abraham: Philanthropic support is critical to help us keep doing and advancing our work. We provide a great deal of complex multidisciplinary care, but the strains of the pandemic drastically increased the calls for help from teens and families in our community. Philanthropy can help build our team to treat our young patients when they need us most and advance research to improve the health of future generations.
Finally, I will add that we have a fellowship program, which I completed early in my career. I came back to Children’s National because I believe strongly in our purpose and vision. Supporting the future generation of adolescent care providers ensures they learn what it really means to connect, provide confidential care and screen for high-risk issues.
Contact Senior Director of Development Marian Brodsky at [email protected] to learn more about supporting the Division of Adolescent Young Adult Medicine and Dr. Abraham’s work.
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