Editors note: Dr. Justin Ramsey no longer practices at The Children's Center. He has moved to Missouri.
Dr. Justin Ramsey tries to be aware that many children are terrified of doctors.
He doesn't own a white doctor's coat. He sits on the floor sometimes to talk to children.
Parents might think he's silly, but his approach helps children feel a sense of superiority that can help calm their nerves.
Really, Ramsey doesn't like doctors much either.
“If you were at some of our clinic visits, the kids just kind of look and start screaming because you represent the pokers and the prodders and the evil group of people that touch you and make you feel invaded and uncomfortable,” he said.
Ramsey started this year as one of the pediatric physiatrists at The Children's Center in Bethany, which offers medical services and rehabilitative to children with complex medical needs.
Ramsey, 34, understands what it's like to be a kid at a doctor's office. At 2, he was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy.
The term cerebral palsy refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination but don't worsen over time, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The diagnosis varies from person to person. While one child with severe cerebral palsy might be unable to walk and need extensive lifelong care, another with mild cerebral palsy might have only slight symptoms and not require special assistance, according to the institute.
For Ramsey, it means a weakened left hand and leg. Ramsey treats a lot of children with cerebral palsy, but he doesn't always bring up that he also has the disorder. The fact that he has cerebral palsy is not the driving force for why he does what he does.
“I don't want to advertise my biases in what I am, just for the need of telling them about me,” he said. “But there are families that you can tell the kid needs to hear something. More often, the parents need to hear something because the parents are mourning the loss of function or perceived function.”
Ramsey will soon serve as The Children's Center's primary pediatric physiatrist, for Dr. Ed Wright, also a pediatric physiatrist, will soon leave the center.
Wright has been at The Children's Center for 10 years and will soon start at Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin.
One of the transition issues Wright feels most comfortable about is leaving patients in Ramsey's care.
“He's really engaged with kids, and with team members that he works with, and he's a pretty direct with what the issues are, and what the options are, and he delivers bad information in a compassionate directive way without sort of forcing the issue,” Wright said.
Before Wright came to The Children's Center, children with trauma brain injuries, spinal cord injuries or other neurological and orthopedic injuries had to often travel out of state for treatment. The closest hospitals were Craig Hospital in Denver and Baylor University Hospital in Dallas.
But since then, many children have been able to stay closer to home. Ramsey's presence will help ensure that trend continues.
He is one of the few pediatric physiatrists in Oklahoma with his level of training. As a pediatric physiatrist, Ramsey is a mix between orthopedics — the branch of medicine that focuses on correcting bone and muscle deformities — and neurology, which focuses on the nerves and nervous system.
“Comparing us to a neurologist — do we read EEGs for seizures? No. Do we come up with seizure plans? Not really. But there is some overlap in diagnosing neurologic conditions,” Ramsey said.
It's a relatively new field of study. Physiatry was not recognized as a separate medical specialty until 1947, according to the Association of Academic Physiatrists.
When he was a child, he was seen by an orthopedic surgeon. Ramsey didn't know doctors like him existed until medical school.
Ramsey said research has shown that medical providers will underestimate a person with a physical health issue's perceived quality of life. Meanwhile, his goal is to help a child reach his or her full function.
“It's rare, and it's nice to be rare, but it's also bad because no one knows what you do, and there are a lot of families who haven't been exposed to us.”