Meet One of Our Global Heath Fellows: Clarisse Casilang, MD

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Clarisse next to her clinic door at CFLR Clarisse next to her clinic door at CFLR Clarisse Casilang, MD, is a board-certified general pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She completed training as a CHOP David N. Pincus Global Health Fellow in the Dominican Republic from 2017 to 2019.

Dr. Casilang is passionate about using her skills in medical communication, mHealth, and advocacy to improve access to care,  promote health and wellness, inform public health policy, and be a voice for the most vulnerable communities. She is currently an attending physician at Children's Health of Orange County (CHOC) in the Pediatric Urgent Care Department serving children and families in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. She recently accepted the role of CHOC Community Pediatrics Lead Physician.

Dr. Casilang recently answered a few questions about her time as a fellow – and shared some of the reasons why she chose CHOP for her fellowship.

Why did you choose CHOP for your fellowship?

CHOP stood out to me for many reasons, not the least of which is that CHOP is the nation's first hospital devoted exclusively to the care of children and is an institution that is consistently recognized for providing the highest level of compassionate care and innovation. I wanted to be part of this rich history, and I also wanted to contribute in my own distinct way to our shared mission of advancing child health all over the world. During the interview process, I felt that the leadership was really invested in what I had to offer and how we could tailor my fellowship experience to incorporate my interests and passions, which I felt was refreshing and added an extra spark and motivation to my journey of becoming a global health pediatrician.

I ultimately chose CHOP because:

  1. I felt it was unique to be able to spend nearly 100% of my time as a fellow living and working in my host country. This really allows you the time to develop strong relationships with community partners as well as gain a deeper understanding of the people you serve and the culture they live in; 
  2. I could personalize and design my projects around my fields of interest and/or expertise and really develop passion projects that fit the needs of the community I would work in; and
  3. I would have access to an amazing network of teachers, mentors, researchers and like-minded individuals who are considered world leaders in their field, which would allow me to grow and to learn from the best of the best!

What is your favorite memory from your time as a fellow?

I have many favorite memories from my time as a fellow, but one of my all-time favorites was being the Summer Camp Doctor for our pediatric patients who are living with HIV. One of our community health workers and I served as a small but mighty medical team, making sure the campers were taking their daily medications and addressing any urgent health concerns while also being part of the fun aspects of their lives and getting to know them in a different light. I got to know my patients really well, and came to understand their personalities, their fears, their hopes and their dreams. This was one of the first times I started seeing my patients more holistically. I saw firsthand how our impact as pediatricians can and must extend beyond the four walls of a clinic.

What did you enjoy most about your time at CHOP?

With our amazing team at Clinica de Familia La Romana (CFLR): Left to Right Clarisse, program assistant Sonia Deris, pediatric nurse Juana Mercedes, Local pediatrician Dra. Tania Vanderhorst Roche With our amazing team at Clinica de Familia La Romana (CFLR): Left to Right Clarisse, program assistant Sonia Deris, pediatric nurse Juana Mercedes, Local pediatrician Dra. Tania Vanderhorst Roche What I enjoyed most about being at CHOP were the never-ending opportunities to learn, grow and contribute alongside some of the most kind, creative, genius and dedicated people in the world. To work with such incredible people at the Pincus Family Foundation, at CHOP, and at our partner sites in my host country (Niños Primeros en Salud and Clinica de Familia La Romana) was one of the hugest blessings of my life. Living away from home for a few years, I felt lucky to have the chance to create another family and develop relationships that I know will last a lifetime. It also taught me a great deal about what's most important in life, especially when you commit so much time to serving others.

How did you spend your free time when you were a fellow?

I loved using my free time to travel around the Dominican Republic (DR) and experience the country's different flavors. I particularly enjoyed going to live music shows and learning the popular dance styles of the region, such as Merengue, Bachata and Salsa. I got to see some of my favorite artists – Ozuna, Shakira, Maluma, Marc Anthony and Bad Bunny – live in concert in the DR. During my weekend travels, I also discovered some of my favorite beaches, such as Playa Esmeralda and Playa Macao, just to name a few. Pro tip: Las Terrenas in the north has an amazing sanctuary called Hammam Kef, where you can relax and unwind. I especially enjoyed touring around the country with the awesome pediatric residents and medical students who happened to be on their global health rotation and were up for an adventure!

What advice would you give new Global Health fellows?

I would say, "Try your very best to 'be present.'" With all of the challenges that came my way, whether they were personal, professional or even the day to day (like getting my car stuck in a ditch, true story!), I've learned that I struggled a little less when I went with the flow, let go of any expectations, and focused on the person or situation right in front of me. Another reason to be present is to savor the moment, because in the blink of an eye, a few years down the road you'll stop and think, "Wow, am I done with fellowship already?!"

What's next for you?

Our amazing team (left to right): local pediatrician Dra. Ingrid Japa, pediatric nurse Ramona Cordero from Niños Primeros en Salud in Consuelo, and Clarisse. Our amazing team (left to right): local pediatrician Dra. Ingrid Japa, pediatric nurse Ramona Cordero from Niños Primeros en Salud in Consuelo, and Clarisse. I've moved from CHOP to CHOC (Children’s Health of Orange County)! I'm so grateful for the recent opportunity that I've been given to lead our community outreach efforts at CHOC. One of our first initiatives is called Wellness on Wheels, which will be an expansion of our mobile asthma outreach program. We hope to bring services to our most vulnerable children and families to meet them where they are and to address both their physical wellness needs (such as fitness and nutrition) and social determinants of health, including financial literacy, food insecurity and toxic stress. What excites me about this new role is that I will get to tap into many of the skills I gained as a CHOP Pincus Global Health Fellow and will have the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned  to real-life, “on-the-ground” situations. Needless to say, I feel more ready than I've ever been! I am so grateful for my time at CHOP because it set me up for success – not only by getting me a seat at the table, but also by showing me how to turn my dreams of social change and progress into reality.

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