As the director of medical education at All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, Raquel Hernandez, MD, MPH, combines her three professional passions — clinical care, education and research. “As an alumna of Johns Hopkins University, I take great pride in my role in helping to shape the academic mission of All Children’s as part of Johns Hopkins Medicine.”
As a wife and mother of three, Dr. Hernandez has seen her personal dreams come true as well. Born in El Salvador, she immigrated to the United States at age 4, growing up in a loving family in various parts of New York. Her husband is a native of Tampa and fellow John Hopkins alum, which made the 2009 decision to make the Tampa-St. Petersburg area their home much easier. “We haven’t looked back since the big move!”
What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
You learn throughout medical training that communication and respect for others is critical to great outcomes. As a two physician family, we have followed the same strategy. Whether it is taking the extra effort to plan our daily schedules or being sure to protect and prioritize time together during holidays and vacations, it is all about communication and respecting what we each identify as important. Our success depends upon telling each other, our kids and our immediate family that time together is important such that our kids now value and expect to be together—they now keep us honest in when we’re not getting that time. I consider instilling these values into our kids a success. Our success has also depended on the support of our families, near and far, to keep us centered and remember to keep family first.
What is your biggest fear?
I would say that my fears and concerns most centrally relate to preserving and prioritizing the health and safety of my children and my patients. As a mom and pediatrician, I am committed to promoting the policies and clinical practices that will keep our kids safe and healthy for the foreseeable future. Opposition to pediatric health measures, such as optimizing nutrition in schools, appropriate vaccination and gun safety, do give me pause. However, these fears are abated by knowing that institutions like All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine and other child advocates recognize that the future of children depends on taking immediate and effective action.
What advice would you give to other women?
Every woman’s journey is her own. Comparing yourself to others is a fast way to frustration, self-deprecation and inefficiency. Remember that your path and your passions are your own. Embrace your decisions and recognize that they will be unique, no matter how hard you try to conform. This realization is not only liberating, but it lets you fully enjoy the life and path you’ve chosen.
What is your proudest moment?
My proudest professional moment occurred in welcoming our inaugural class of residents last March. This marked the beginning of our journey toward becoming a leading pediatric residency program, where 12 of the nation’s best medical students join us each year in their three-year journey toward becoming our nation’s child health leaders and pediatricians. The excellence of our first residents is evident in the care of their patients as well as in their educational and research efforts. Their pioneering spirit and commitment to All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine is evident every day. Personally, having three young children who have unique, unforgettable personalities with strong family values makes my heart full on a daily basis. Daily, I am treated to great jokes, bear hugs and fabulous stories. The connection to my kids and family gives me continual strength. It is critical to my success and balance.
What is your biggest achievement?
Having my kids know that they remain my priority is my biggest achievement. Their love for life, family and school make me infinitely proud. I am also proud that my kids can make healthy choices when we go to the grocery store. After lots of discussions on what keeps us all at a healthy weight, I am proud that my kids can read food labels and remember to put their fruits and veggies in our shopping cart!
What makes you happy?
It is first and foremost a unique honor and joy to be a part of the life of children and their families as a general pediatrician. Seeing my patients grow from health, happy infants toward well-adjusted successful adolescents makes me continually happy and committed to seeking excellence at every visit. My professional happiness is enhanced through watching our trainees develop into outstanding physicians. When our educational programs succeed, our residents and our patients benefit. I am fortunate to have amazing staff and colleagues who are committed to this pursuit. Personal happiness relates to simple things — great food, great wine and great hugs. These things in addition to seeing my kids have great playdates and work up a great sweat only add to my happiness! Their joy is my joy.
How do you relax and take time for yourself?
This is a perpetual challenge. It sometimes boils down to blocking out time in our Outlook calendars for everything from meetings to birthday parties to date nights — these are equally important in my book! I have moved past feeling embarrassed or less efficient for protecting this time, and I find that it has consistently made me more efficient and receptive to new projects. This approach, in addition to having a fantastic support system in the immediate area, allows for those necessary moments to take a pause and get perspective. Spending time in the sun, shopping for home décor, exercising and catching up with my fabulous book club are my preferred ways to relax.
What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?
South Tampa has been an outstanding place to raise a family and find a community of successful, young professionals. The education our kids are receiving in addition to the network of colleagues and friends we have cultivated has added to our personal and professional growth in a way that I could not have anticipated when we made the decision to move here. I am thankful for the opportunities both my husband and I have been provided and feel that the community only continues to grow in what is has to offer young, growing families.
What else would you like to share with our readers? About being a mom, about your work?
I credit my husband and my children for who I am and the good fortune that has come my way. Being a great cheerleader and having great cheerleaders on your sidelines will get you very far. I am very excited for the future direction of All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine as well our residency program. The potential to change the health of children within the Tampa-St. Petersburg community and beyond remains a priority for our institution. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this mission.
How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?
The magazine is such a great way to get the pulse of the community from the perspective of families. Whether it be reading about an upcoming event or recognizing the success of some of our own friends and colleagues, I always have an issue on hand to keep up with the local happenings.
What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?
There are so many things! I revel in thinking that our kids consider going to Busch Gardens an everyday activity given the mileage we get out of our season passes. It is consistently a trip both the kids and adults enjoy. We also love biking in local parks and along Bayshore Boulevard. Finally, we find every excuse to hang out by the ocean. Being away from the beach for too long causes multiple complaints from our crew!
Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
I have a great admiration and respect for Michael Bloomberg and what his advocacy and leadership have resulted in as it relates to obesity prevention, education and child safety. He is a role model to me in how he was able to tackle an issue as daunting as obesity in the nation’s biggest metropolitan city and make a difference in individual behaviors. His work in reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and in promoting nutritional awareness remains a benchmark for other cities to follow. His passion and perseverance in light of such a complex health issue continue to inspire me to make similar changes in our pediatric community.