A Day in the Life: Ruth Abaya, MD, MPH

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Children's View

A Day in the Life: Ruth Abaya, MD, MPH - 1 From the time she was a high school student in Nigeria, Ruth Abaya, MD, MPH, wanted to be a physician. She earned a medical degree from Northwestern University and completed a residency at Boston Children's Hospital before fellowship training at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. During a one-month rotation on the trauma team, she saw a patient who was hospitalized twice in a short period for gunshot wounds. Thankfully, he survived both injuries. That experience cemented Dr. Abaya’s commitment to fixing the system that had failed him.

Now, Dr. Abaya is an attending physician in CHOP’s Emergency Department (ED) and splits her time between her two passions: medicine and violence prevention. On this day in her life, we catch her doing both.

7 a.m. Wakes up, has coffee and gets her two daughters — ages 1 and 4 — ready for the day.

8 a.m. Drops her 4-year-old off at preschool a few blocks away and heads back home to get her youngest child situated with her babysitter.

9 a.m. Logs into a Philadelphia City Council hearing. As a pediatrician, a violence prevention expert, and Injury Prevention Program Manager for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH), Dr. Abaya is called on to provide expert testimony about the impact of violence on young people.

11 a.m. Virtual meeting with her PDPH team to discuss a data brief they are preparing on the number of shooting incidents that have occurred in the city’s public spaces. They are working to create a registry of firearm injuries in Philadelphia to identify the most promising practices for violence prevention and intervention. Dr. Abaya’s work in this field earned her the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles’ Changemaker Award.

4 p.m. Warms up another cup of coffee, calls a Lyft and heads to CHOP for an evening shift in the ED.

5 p.m. Receives an update from the outgoing ED team on the evening’s patients, many of whom have symptoms of common childhood viruses like hand, foot and mouth disease and asthma.

A Day in the Life: Ruth Abaya, MD, MPH - 2 Ruth Abaya, MD, MPH, splits her time between her two passions: emergency medicine and violence prevention. 6 p.m. Sees a child who suffered a gunshot wound a few weeks ago and is still experiencing pain due to bullet fragments in his leg. Dr. Abaya calls in a social worker, who connects the child and his family to violence intervention support and trauma counseling in the community. The patient is also referred to a pain management team to deal with the chronic pain he is likely to experience as a result of the location of his wound.

7 p.m. Examines a child who fell off her bicycle and injured her arm. X-rays confirm the child has a fracture. Dr. Abaya provides sedation while an orthopaedic surgeon sets the bone. The child selects a hot pink cast before going home.

8 p.m. Sees a little girl who has asthma. While examining the child, Dr. Abaya learns that the child’s father was shot and killed in North Philadelphia two days prior. It becomes clear that part of caring for the child will involve getting her mother the support she needs. Dr. Abaya prescribes the appropriate asthma medication for the child. She then contacts the child’s pediatrician to inform them of what’s going on so they can pick up the baton to support the family.

10 p.m. Stitches a chin laceration for a child who fell off a yoga ball.

11 p.m. Sees a patient whose cousin was recently killed by gun violence. The patient has also received threats, and he is in crisis. The ED’s behavioral health screening reveals he is at risk for self-harm. A psychiatrist is called in to assess him, determine the level of support he needs and connect him with community resources.

1 a.m. ED shift ends. Calls a Lyft and heads home.

2 a.m. Having not eaten at all during her shift, Dr. Abaya is famished. She reheats the dinner her husband made earlier and decompresses from the long day.      

To learn more about how you can support CHOP’s violence prevention efforts, contact Tim Johnson at 302-530-3845 or johnsont22@chop.edu.