Knowing the Best Care is Here

Emerie NavarroMaria Navarro was frightened for her daughter, Emerie, when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 4. "I didn't know much about diabetes care. I was very upset," Navarro remembers.

Now 9 years old, Emerie is thriving. She's a straight-A student, plays a 10-string instrument called a cuatro, enjoys basketball and is training for a five-kilometer run. "She's fearless. Diabetes doesn't control her life. She's in control of it," Navarro says.

Emerie has prospered with the help of her endocrinologist, Songya Pang, MD, professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital University of Illinois. "I love my doctor," Emerie says. "She's a really good doctor. She's nice and sweet, and she knows a lot. She takes good care of me." Her mother agrees. "I'm very happy with the care she gets from Dr. Pang," Navarro says. "She knows so much about diabetes. She's always been available if I have a concern or if Emerie's blood sugars are off."

Keeping a diabetic child's blood sugar levels as close to normal is critical both to promoting normal growth and avoiding complications such as eye, kidney, nerve and heart damage. To help her patients and their caregivers manage diabetes, Pang emphasizes educating them in what diabetes is, how it affects children and how to control it.

For Emerie and her mother, that education began while Emerie was admitted to the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System after her diagnosis. "It seemed like every few hours we had people coming in the room and training us on what it means to be a diabetic and how to take care of her. When we left the hospital, we had tons of information," Navarro says.

A school social worker, Navarro earned both her bachelor's and her master's of social work degrees at UIC and was a patient at the University of Illinois Hospital while she was a student. "The care I had received was always excellent. I know firsthand that the doctors at Children's Hospital University of Illinois are dedicated, and I felt that Emerie was going to get the best care possible there."

Emerie, whose diabetes is managed using an insulin pump, now sees Pang every three months. During these comprehensive appointments, Pang reviews her blood sugar levels and insulin dosage; evaluates her growth and development; checks on her diet, nutrition, activity levels and emotional health; and looks for signs of diabetes-related illnesses. Emerie and her mother are an exemplary/mother team in achieving these goals with their diligent home care for her diabetes, Pang says.

Pang also works with patients and their caregivers to get them to take the steps needed to control the child's diabetes, including multiple daily blood sugar tests, insulin administration and dietary changes. "You have to develop a good rapport with families by being genuine. You really need to show that you care," Pang says.

She believes this approach is typical of pediatric care at Children's Hospital University of Illinois. "All my colleagues are spending time to make sure the children are doing well," Pang says. "We don't work nine to five. We're available anytime we're needed, day and night. It's not just the doctors. The nursing staff, office staff, all are trying to deliver the best care we can."

The payoff for these efforts is the difference they make in the patients' lives. "It makes you feel good when you can make them healthy, when they're growing well," Pang says. "That's the best feeling you can get."

The Pediatric Diabetes Program within the Children's Hospital provides diabetes care for children and adolescents in a bilingual and multicultural setting. Faculty members have ongoing collaborations with members of the NIH-funded CTSA and the division of endocrinology in the department of medicine.