New Le Bonheur Chief of Pediatrics focuses on whole family
Lauren Mutrie, MD, MSc, is passionate about clinical pediatrics and public health. In her new role as chief of General Pediatrics at Le Bonheur, Mutrie is well poised to bridge the two in a city where the child poverty rate is twice the national average. She’s seen firsthand the effects extreme poverty can have on children’s health – both in Memphis and abroad.
Before Mutrie moved to Memphis, she worked in sub-Saharan Africa caring for HIV-positive children.
“While I was exposed to a different scale of poverty, I observed commonalities unique to poor communities all over the world,” said Mutrie. “In Memphis, our children struggle with a lack of nutritious food, unsafe housing, neighborhood violence, broken families, homelessness and more.”
A native of Atlanta, Mutrie stayed close to home for her education, completing an undergraduate degree in Biology at Emory University and attending the university’s medical school. She knew by the 9th grade she wanted to be a pediatrician and knew within the early days of medical school she wanted to focus on the care of women and children in poverty.
“Early in medical school, we were exposed to the social circumstances surrounding our patients’ lives in a very large and very poor refugee population in Atlanta. Understanding patients’ needs in the context of where they lived was crucial to building a culture of health,” says Mutrie. “That was my first exposure to global health principles as experienced in the United States. Very early on, I gained an awareness of health disparities and inequities among people living in poverty.”
Since her residency in pediatrics, Mutrie spent considerable time in remote areas of the globe caring for women and children in poverty. In Swaziland and Lesotho, Mutrie cared for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. In India, she provided medical care to villagers in an isolated part of the Himalayas.
And now in Memphis, Mutrie aims to make a difference, too.
“I saw how small public health interventions had the potential for enormous health impact for individuals, families, communities and entire populations,” said Mutrie.
Mutrie came to Le Bonheur in 2013 with her husband, a cardiothoracic surgeon. Within her first two years at the hospital, she helped launch Memphis CHiLD, Le Bonheur’s first medical-legal partnership. In 18 months, a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, lawyers, students, residents and social workers has encountered more than 500 referral cases with issues ranging from housing instability to conservatorship needs.
“We didn’t have this extension of health or legal care [previously],” says Mutrie. “As a doctor, I felt frustration when I had to send a child with asthma back home to a moldy apartment, knowing that the housing circumstances were triggering asthma flares and that the child would return to the hospital in a week. But now, there’s mechanism in place through Memphis CHiLD to prevent this from happening again.”
In her role as division chief, Mutrie works alongside a fantastic group of clinicians, researchers, educators and mentors. She plans to support her partners, encouraging an atmosphere of academic successes, leadership, and advocacy for child health. Mutrie believes that Le Bonheur is a place where pediatricians can have the rewarding experience of practicing medicine while contributing to a body of important academic work that influences health outcomes, especially among children living in poverty.
“We have incredible devotion to the children of Memphis and incredible advocacy capabilities as pediatricians at Le Bonheur,” she says. “I want to involve our doctors and trainees in solving the problems associated with poverty and low-income areas. I want to apply our scholarship to backyard issues, and I want our collective work to inform policy.”
Mutrie’s team is focused on transforming the conversation around health and healing.
“Our role as pediatricians in the healing of children has the power to change the course of our patients’ lives, and effective medicine requires a holistic, compassionate and interdisciplinary approach.”