Category: Health Magazine, Winter 2023

Title:Instilling hope for action through pediatric care

Author: By Bhriana Smith
Date Published: December 1, 2022
a woman with dark hair smiles at the camera
Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Ahdoot

Samantha Ahdoot, M.D. (M’99), has a special interest in the environmental effects of health in children. Joining the Pediatric Associates of Alexandria in 2003, Ahdoot is a Board Member of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) where she serves as Environmental Health Champion. She is lead author of the AAP Policy Statement and Technical Report on Climate Change and Children’s Health.

Her work at the state level to influence key policies has helped position Virginia as a national leader in clean energy policy. Ahdoot is chair of the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action (VCCA), an organization that strives to bring the clinician voice to climate change advocacy in the state. Through education, advocacy, and community outreach, the VCCA has built a network of over 450 clinician advocates for local and statewide climate change solutions that protect the health of patients and communities across Virginia.

Ahdoot says she always wanted to work with children, recalling a memory from her childhood when she told her parents at a tender age that she wanted to be a “baby doctor.”

“I took a lot of detours along the way, pursuing other interests, but I ultimately came back to my expressed interest as a five-year-old,” she recalls.

One of her detours was becoming a serious trumpet player. She notes that music was instrumental to her studies while in medical school.

“I played in the Georgetown undergraduate orchestra and the Georgetown Jazz Ensemble, and I loved those experiences,” she said with a smile.

Ahdoot’s connection to Georgetown goes beyond her medical studies and trumpet-playing. It is the place she met her husband Kenneth Ahdoot, M.D. (G’95, M’99), a practicing obstetrician, in her microbiology class.

“The pediatrician-obstetrician partnership works,” she laughs. “He delivers the babies and then passes them to me.”

Ahdoot notes that physicians generally do not receive much training on environmental health when studying traditional medicine.

“Freedom from exposure to toxic materials is vitally important to the health of every child,” says Ahdoot. “As threats to the environment become more pervasive, physicians are increasingly realizing that changes in the environment are affecting the health of our patients in very real ways.”

Environmental conditions like air pollution, for example, cause lung growth to diminish in children, Ahdoot explains. A champion in her field, she notes that pediatricians are leading the effort across the United States integrating environmental health into medical education.

While changes addressing the problem of environmental degradation are incremental, building awareness has a significant impact.

“We’re in the midst of a tremendous, adolescent mental health crisis, which obviously has many roots and many complex causes,” she says. “As our adolescent patients learn about environmental health, they’re also watching how we respond. A lack of response generates a sense of helplessness and betrayal.”

Ahdoot notes that her focus as a pediatrician is to give young adults opportunities to help make things better. It is an approach she references as “active hope,” her guiding principle extracted from the book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy.

“Active hope doesn’t require optimism,” she states. “It just requires recognizing a problem, finding a path forward that can help address that problem, and then taking action to make advancements towards that goal.”

Ahdoot states that the School of Medicine’s newly established Environmental Health and Medicine Track is a prime example of young adults with active hope.

“The students see a problem, and they’ve developed a path that through their own particular circumstance can make things better.”

More Stories

a woman in a yellow skirt paints a green abstract painting

How Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center uses art for cura personalis A typical day in the studio finds Aida Murad, the current artist-in-residence exhibitor at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center,…

people posing

President John J. DeGioia, Roberta Waite, and Christopher J. King / Photo: Phil Humnicky Editor’s Note: The original article inadvertently omitted the Georgetown University School of Dentistry, which was closed…

Medical students lead efforts to integrate environmental health into curriculum Ruba Omiera / Courtesy of Ruba Omeira For Ruba Omeira (M’24), a single grain of rice illustrates the staggering consequences…