Editor's Note/Update: McConnell received the William I. Cohen, MD Distinguished Service Award from the Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group – USA (DSMIG-USA) in July 2016. The DSMIG-USA is an organization whose members are health professionals committed to promoting optimal health care and wellness of individuals with Down syndrome across the lifespan.
It’s a bit ironic that the recent Family Voices of Minnesota Award is given to a doctor known for her good listening skills.
Patient families say neurodevelopmental pediatrician Kim McConnell, M.D., takes time to hear their stories and to know their family and child.
McConnell jokes that her husband and son would not say listening as one of her better traits but it’s a skill she’s consciously trying to develop.
“I want families to feel like they got something of value after having the appointment with me. I recognize that for many families just feeling heard and feeling like somebody listened to their whole story is important. I think that’s what I can offer these families and they value it,” McConnell says.
“My specialty is not procedure oriented and I’m not doing surgeries,” McConnell adds. “I spend my time working with children who have developmental disabilities. These challenges change as children develop and they don’t go away—most of these are life-long issues,” McConnell says.
She gets a bit reflective when talking about winning the Family Voices of Minnesota Award. “It’s very humbling and touching. Families who are raising children with special needs are incredibly busy. It’s not easy for these parents to sit down and find time to write about their experiences with me as their physician—that’s just amazing and touching,” McConnell says.
Family Voices of Minnesota is a non-profit aimed at helping families get information and resources to help them care for children who have special needs and disabilities. The organization began in 1994 as a grassroots network and today it serves families throughout Minnesota.
The executive director of Family Voices Minnesota, Carolyn Allshouse, says the award is a way for patient families to voice their appreciation as they nominate a physician to win the award. She says parents like that McConnell uses an inclusive approach and respects the knowledge parents have about their child. “She really considers the parent to be an expert about their own child,” Allshouse says.
McConnell sees her work as a collaboration. “It’s really a team. Families allow you into their lives and to share the experiences they’re having raising their child. I think it’s a very kind of special practice to get to know families at the level we are able to here at Gillette,” McConnell says.
McConnell works out of the Minnetonka Clinic and has been at Gillette since 1998. She traces her interest in caring for patients back to her childhood.” My mother is a retired occupational therapist. So when I was very young she worked at a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities. So those are some of my earlier experiences. She always took a lot of pride in her work. That is probably what got me interested in pediatrics,” McConnell says.
McConnell is the third Gillette doctor to win the Family Voices of Minnesota Award. In 2014 orthopedic surgeon Stephen England, M.D. and pediatric rehabilitation medicine doctor Sarah Kiesling, M.D. shared the award.