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Faculty Spotlight: Theodore Yip, MD, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
We’d like to introduce you to one of our pediatric physiatrists, Theodore Yip, MD, who specializes in taking care of children with congenital and acquired disabilities. His goal is to help children reach their potential, focusing on function, independence, and quality of life. His day-to-day practice includes seeing children in clinic, working with physical, occupational, and speech therapists, providing bracing and equipment needs, and caring for children in the hospital who need rehabilitation. Cerebral palsy, brain injury, spinal cord injury, neuromuscular conditions, and neurological deficits in cancer are examples of the diagnoses he treats.
What drew you to specialize in pediatric rehabilitation medicine?
During medical school on my clinical rotations, I witnessed the recovery of a young child who suffered a moderate traumatic brain injury after a tragic car accident saw his mother and brother pass away in the accident. Heroically, he survived despite suffering multiple fractures and internal injuries on top of his brain injury. During his stay in the intensive care unit (ICU), he was unresponsive for an entire month, relying on a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to provide nutrition. When my rotation ended, he was still in the ICU unresponsive. I thought he would be just another sad story I saw in medical school. I was wrong.
Six months later, when I saw him again, he was running around and bouncing off the hallways and he gave the peds rehab doctor I was with a big hug. I knew right then that something special happened as part of his rehabilitation to make such an incredible recovery. I wanted to be a part of that. So, I chose to continue my training and pursue a career in pediatric rehabilitation medicine.
What do you like best about working with children and families?
As much as I enjoy seeing a child fully recover, not all stories are as happy as the one I just told. Not all recoveries are full.
As parents, we naturally have expectations, hopes, and dreams for our children. We have a path we aspire our families to walk in life. Sometimes life gives us a journey that we’d never expect. Sometimes it gives us a journey we’d never hope for. But just because that path is different, doesn’t mean it no longer has meaning.
I enjoy supporting our children and our families on their own individual journey to find that meaning.
There are plans for a new NC Children’s Hospital. How do you think it will benefit the community?
The announcement for a new NC Children’s Hospital has generated a remarkable amount of excitement! A free standing children’s hospital of this caliber and resources promises to create one of the best children’s hospitals in the region, if not the nation. This will further attract and retain bright minds and compassionate hearts to build upon the strong foundation already present here in our local children’s hospitals. It will also open a new chapter of growth in other sectors within our local community. Most importantly, the plans for this new state hospital show that our communities and state leaders are dedicated to delivering the best healthcare to all children from North Carolina and beyond.
What excites me most about this new children’s hospital is the growing interest in developing additional rehabilitation programs. Leaders within our healthcare system and community recognize the importance of not just treating disease and injury, but also providing the support needed to get children back to their baseline function and day-to-day life.
What benefits have you seen from the creation of Fitch Family Comprehensive Pediatric Rehabilitation Program Fund?
The Fitch family’s first-hand experience, recognition of our healthcare system’s flaws, there will to act, and commitment to improving their community makes them unique and integral leaders in the process of bringing rehabilitation services to our state.
Sometimes children who are admitted to UNC can benefit from acute inpatient rehabilitation after they are medically stable. This is an additional stay, typically for a few weeks, where children get multiple hours of intensive therapies every day, to promote recovery and return to their prior level of function and independence. Unfortunately, UNC does not have a pediatric acute inpatient rehabilitation program yet. The Fitch Family’s Pediatric Rehab Program is bringing awareness and resources to build an acute inpatient rehabilitation program for the children of North Carolina.
While there is still a way to go from reaching our end goal, the Fitch Family’s initiative has already brought about real change to our rehabilitation services at UNC. In our outpatient clinic, we now have a pediatric rehabilitation nurse coordinator and a pediatric case manager to support our children with disabilities. At our hospital, we have also started a Family Education And Support Team (FEAST) –with pediatric rehab physicians, neuropsychologists, physical/occupational/speech therapists, and child life specialists.
Our team’s mission is to ensure that rehabilitation services are delivered to children who need it, either at an outside rehab hospital or with outpatient therapies. Our team also helps provide any bracing or equipment needs, guides families as they navigate life after injury, and arrange appropriate follow up.
This is just the start of positive changes the Fitch Family Pediatric Rehab Program brings. I’m excited about the incredible opportunities for growth within the field of rehabilitation at UNC. Without the support from our community, and leaders like the Fitch Family, this would not be possible. I am continually grateful to them and all those who have empowered us to improve care for the children of North Carolina.