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Did What I Did, Not What I Said
Gary Sterba, MD, was a rheumatologist in his native Venezuela for 30 years. Based on experience, he knew how hard the job was. His daughter, Yonit, knew it, too, from listening to his stories. They both realized the time away from home the profession calls for when it’s done right. So when she took the national exam to become a healthcare professional, Dr. Sterba pushed her toward bio-analysis or nutrition.
Dr. Sterba says medicine requires a lot of sacrifices, and he “thought she could take it easier. She went for her university exams, and she did very, very well. So she said, ‘You know what? I did very well. I’m not doing nutrition. I’m going to be a physician.’”
Yonit Sterba Rakovchik, MD, is now a pediatric rheumatologist with Pediatric Specialists of America (PSA), a physician-led multispecialty group practice at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, not far from where her father now practices. Dr. Rakovchik’s decision to focus on pediatric patients has differentiated her from her father. It was a conscious effort to forge her own path within the specialty, but she says working with younger patients always appealed to her.
“I always wanted to do my own thing,” Dr. Rakovchik says. “[When I was] in medical school, [my father] knew one of my teachers. I [told Dad], ‘You don’t have to tell them I’m your daughter. I don’t want preferential treatment.’ … I just want to do my own thing.”
This past year, after Dr. Rakovchik completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and her fellowship at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, N.Y., happenstance brought the father–daughter duo together in Miami. And now, they can each bounce rheumatic disease cases off each other.
Dr. Rakovchik respects how much effort her father put into his work in Venezuela over decades, learning how to deal with pediatric patients who had few physician options. She’s happy to get his perspective.
“I have someone extra to discuss my cases with, especially the challenging ones,” she says. “In pediatric rheumatology, we have a very small community. So … it’s always interesting to get his opinion on patients. I always take it into account.”