Physician at Danis Pediatric Center feels God called her to her work

Dr. Heidi Sallee
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Dr. Heidi Sallee has strong ties to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and views her work as a vocation.

Dr. Sallee grew up in California and went to college to prepare to be a teacher. But she felt pulled by the medical field, inspired by her grandfather, a pediatrician, and her uncle, a pediatric surgeon. She also felt pulled by a sense of helping others, a reflection of her Catholic faith.

“I just felt this strong vocation of working in an underserved community,” said the parishioner of Mary Queen of Peace in Webster Groves. “I really feel that this is what God has called me to do.”

Sallee’s grandfather is the late Dr. Peter Danis, who approached Archbishop Cardinal Ritter in the 1950s and proposed building the hospital named after Cardinal Ritter’s predecessor. Her uncle is the late Dr. Richard Danis, who also practiced at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon.

Today, Sallee is the medical director of The Danis Pediatric Center, a part of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon, which provides outpatient pediatric primary care services. SLUCare Physician Group doctors see children, newborn to 21 years of age, and provide services from well-baby visits to checkups and physicals. It also provides diagnostic services and second opinions for complex cases referred by community pediatricians and family practitioners.

The main site is at the hospital, 1465 S. Grand Blvd., which has about 18,000 patient visits a year, and a second site is at Midtown, 4100 Forest Park Ave. Suite A, which has about 4,000 patient visits a year.

Sallee did her residency at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon and began work at the Southern Illinois Health Foundation. She’s been at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon for 17 years, and during that time the clinic she worked at was named for her grandfather.

It’s been a great fit. “I’ve always had a strong calling, sense of vocation, mission, to take care of children who otherwise may not have the same services, and address not just the medical needs but their personal needs, their family’s needs, as much as we can,” she said. “I just really enjoy taking care of children, developing a long-term relationship with them.”

It’s much more than giving them a vaccine or providing antibiotics for an ear infection. The staff address topics such as if the children have enough food or stable housing.

“If they don’t have those things, we have resources in our clinic to take care of that,” Sallee said. “We are really taking a holistic approach to the needs of all the children who come through our doors.”

She always enjoyed children, and worked as a babysitter even in college when most people her age moved on from that work. “I realized that where God called me was in medicine. I feel that my talents that are God-given are being utilized to make a difference in the world.”

She likes being an advocate for children. On tough days, she calms herself and asks God to give her strength to get through the situation, “to just be with me, to be whatever the family needs of me.”

She often prays a few times during the day, and especially in difficult situations offers to pray for and with families. She also tries to see Christ in her patients and their parents. “If you see that Christ is in everyone, then when you are responding to a difficult situation it really helps.”

Danis Pediatrics has a variety of patients, though about 80 percent receive Medicaid. Other patients have complex medical conditions and their parents feel comfortable coming to one of the centers. “We’re there for everybody. Whatever your needs are in terms of needing a pediatrician, we can cover it,” Sallee said.

Sometimes help is provided with adverse childhood experiences, any kind of trauma, from a parental divorce to neglect. It can be mitigated, Sallee explained, but “you can’t really separate the child’s environment at home or school from their health because those things affect it,” she said.

Kids are amazing in their ability to recover, she said, and “being able to partner with parents to get their children to a better place of health and live as fully as possible is wonderful.”

Favorite prayer

One of Dr. Heide Sallee’s favorite prayers, which she keeps on her bulletin board, is from St. Teresa of Avila:

“Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are His body.”

Key services at Danis Pediatrics:

• Bridge4STL builds a partnership between pediatricians, obstetricians and social workers creating a supportive safety net for at risk parents to combat infant mortality.

• Foreign Adoption Clinic and Educational Services (FACES) Provides clinical services addressing the physical health, developmental, emotional and psychological conditions of children and their families that are newly arrived to America, including refugee and immigrant and international adoption populations. A primary aim is to help identify barriers to health care and to help them access and navigate the health care system for their long-term health and well-being.

• Promoting Health and Social Equity helps families with housing or food insecurity.

• Fostering Healthy Children takes a multidisciplinary approach to medical care for children entering foster care. The team of SLUCare Physician Group experts ensures young patients have access to the continuous medical care and services they need, regardless of where they live.

• P-Square Parenting Program, a Saint Louis University School of Medicine clinical research program, empowers parents and caregivers to address problem behaviors.

• Reach Out & Read makes sure that every child leaves his or her visit with a book to keep. Volunteers in the waiting room read to the children and allow the children to read to them.

The SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation helps fund social workers who help with the needs of patients at the clinic.

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