Dr. Katharyn Turner’s care for her patients is based on one important truth: we are all uniquely and wonderfully made children of God.
Dr. Turner is in the second year of a three-year fellowship in developmental pediatrics at the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. The center provides multidisciplinary, comprehensive care to children with developmental concerns such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, developmental delays, behavioral disorders and language and social issues.
“[We take a] holistic approach to care and meet families where they are, knowing that we’re all uniquely made,” Dr. Turner said. “Every single one of these families — every single one of these children — are exactly who they’re supposed to be.”
Developmental pediatricians are needed but rare in Missouri; according to 2020 data from the American Board of Pediatrics, there is one developmental pediatrician for every 153,000 children in the state. The center offers one of only 44 developmental pediatrics fellowship programs in the nation.
Dr. Turner’s patients are “a population that sometimes gets overlooked, and it’s an underserved area in medicine, too,” she said. “If it’s an area that you feel strongly about, you can do a lot of good.”
Often, parents might be nervous or unsure what to expect when they first bring their children to be evaluated, Dr. Turner said.
“It can be very overwhelming sometimes to receive some of the diagnoses that we make here in the clinic, or to have a child that has complex medical concerns,” Dr. Turner said. “I want parents to know that first and foremost, although they may feel alone in their journey, they’re not alone. We can help connect them to resources and guide them through this process.”
A diagnosis is a starting point, not an ending point, she continued.
“I don’t want families to feel like they hit a roadblock,” she said. “I want them to feel like they’re leaving with new information to help them, maybe a weight off their shoulders if they weren’t sure what was going on before.”
The center’s developmental pediatrics team includes neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and nurse practitioners, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, a family resource specialist and education coordinator, social worker and an active research team. In 2007, it was designated as a Missouri Center for Autism by the Department of Mental Health, and the center now receives grant funding from both Missouri and Illinois to provide autism services and support to children in both states.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to do this kind of medicine,” Dr. Turner said.
Besides seeing patients at the Knights of Columbus Center, Dr. Turner’s fellowship includes rotations at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital speciality clinics, gaining experience in areas like genetics, neurology, motor development and sleep medicine.
“You get the chance to really rotate through numerous subspecialities that all influence your final destination, so that you get well-versed in all those areas,” Dr. Turner said.
Prior to this fellowship, Dr. Turner served 10 years on active duty in the Air Force, working as a primary care pediatrician at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio; Moody Air Force Base near Valdosta, George; and Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois. While many doctors go straight into a fellowship after completing residency, Dr. Turner brought years of professional experience with her.
“[Cardinal Glennon] saw that as a strength — they were really interested in that experience and bringing that experience to the clinic,” she said.
Dr. Turner also brings personal experience as a trained and licensed foster parent, including a trauma-informed care approach.
“We have a lot of families in this clinic who are foster parents. So although I don’t necessarily always disclose that I’m a foster parent, I can hear what they’re saying, and I understand the kind of training they’ve gone through, and I can make some suggestions on resources for them. And when I’m evaluating that child, I can think outside the box a little bit and say, OK, trauma mimics a lot of things,” she said. “From a developmental standpoint, there’s a high portion of developmental delays in children in foster care, as well as mental health concerns. I think it just gives me a little additional insight because I’m already doing training outside of my fellowship for foster care. It just widens that knowledge base for me.”
One of the first things that drew Dr. Turner to pediatrics was the opportunity to create great relationships with children and their parents and siblings, seeing them grow year after year. Now, in developmental pediatrics, she feels that call magnified to help families cherish their children, just as God made them, and support them as they progress.
“We’re here to help guide and do what we can, from a medical standpoint, to help these children meet their maximum potential and help families receive a diagnosis and not look at their children differently,” she said. “I want them to still be able to see their child with the same eyes as they saw their child before they walked in here and not feel like a diagnosis labeled or changed their child.”
“[We want parents] to continue to be optimistic and keep pushing for resources and support systems for the kids in both the community and academic setting, and to feel comfortable reaching back to our clinic, their pediatrician, their church, their community — not to walk this alone,” she said.
The Knights of Columbus Developmental Center
Founded in 1981, the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital provides multidisciplinary, comprehensive care to children with developmental concerns such as autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), developmental delays, behavioral disorders and language and social issues. The center’s developmental pediatrics team includes neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and nurse practitioners, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, a family resource specialist and education coordinator, social worker and an active research team. In 2007, it was designated as a Missouri Center for Autism by the Department of Mental Health, one of six sites in the state. The center now receives grant funding from both Missouri and Illinois to provide autism services and support to children in both states.
A physician referral is required to become a patient at the center. To learn more, visit www.ssmhealth.com/cardinal-glennon/location-details/knights-of-columbus-development-center.