Dr. Marla Shapiro is a family physician and founding editor of ParentsCanada magazine. She regularly answers questions about children’s health in ParentsCanada magazine and offers health advice as CTV Canada AM’s Health and Medical Expert. She was recently honoured by Bayer Inc. for her work in women’s health and planning. Read about her thoughts on children’s health and finding a family doctor.
1. Tell me about being honoured by Bayer Inc.?
This year, the company is celebrating their 150th Anniversary and in honour of this milestone, Bayer is honouring Canadians who have contributed to different areas of science and innovation in Canada. A special ceremony is being held on May 28 at the MaRs Centre in Toronto. Not only will I receive an award for my own work, but I will also be hosting and helping to honour the other recipients. It’s quite exciting!
When I was approached about this award, I was so honoured. On top of my general practice, I am on the Board of Directors of Baycrest, Research Canada and I’m the only Canadian on the Board of Trustees for the North American Menopause Society. I’m also committed to education on a host of other important issues including cervical and breast cancer and osteoporosis to name a few.
2. How can other parents help their kids understand and foster their children’s interest in science and innovation?
Science can be fun! I encourage parents to take their children to their local Science centre for a visit. Kids of all ages can go and experience what science has to offer. My one year old grandson has already been to the Science Centre! In Toronto on May 27 and May 29, I suggest a trip to the MaRs Centre where the Science for a Better Life exhibit will be on display. As part of Bayer’s 150th Anniversary, this custom-made exhibit features 22 different modules, each showcasing a different development in their history. Represented by letters of the alphabet, which spells out Bayer’s mission Science for a Better Life, you can drop by letter E and discover more about Energy-Efficient Mobility, or visit letter R and learn more about Rice. Entrance is free and unlike most museums, my favourite part about this experience is that you are encouraged to have a hands-on experience!
3. How did you handle the balance of building a successful career and your family?
Life is all about balance. It is an everyday mindful approach to balance. If you are familiar with my book, you won’t be surprised I’m still saying this all these years later. I love my professional life and all the great people I get to meet and interact with, but I make sure to carve out special family time. I love having everyone over for brunch or dinner on the weekend to catch up and chat about the week. My favourite thing to cook for my family is anything that will get us altogether. My mother-in-law has been an amazing role model cooking for the entire extended family every single Sunday. No one misses her dinners!
4. Immunizations are commonly debated. What are your thoughts on some parents’ continued determination to avoid immunizations?
As a primary care physician, what I think we do best is prevention. One of the greatest prevention strategies we have is vaccinations, so anti-vaccinators are often at odds with my approach to medicine. The anti-vaccine movement is often based on anecdote rather than science and evidence. Immunization is the single most cost effective health investment we have. Smallpox has been eradicated and polio is near extinction. Immunization prevents infection and the complications of many diseases and I strongly encourage all my patients – children and adults – to vaccinate and protect themselves.
5. Do you have any advice for families having a hard time finding a family doctor?
Finding a physician can seem daunting, but there are many different ways you can find yourself and your family a doctor. One great option is finding a doctor in July when the new class of family physicians graduate. Young doctors are very well trained and you can forge long-term relationships with them as they set up their own practices or join other established practices. Refer to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in your province and in some cases, the Ministry of Health.
6. What advice do you have for families looking to curb childhood obesity early on?
This won’t come as a surprise to many parents reading this, but get outside! With Spring here there’s no better time to turn exercise into family activities. Whether it’s walks, bike rides or just exploring your neighbourhood, you can help your children get regular exercise while also having fun. I also recommend parents prepare healthy and balanced meals and snacks with foods from the four main food groups. Remember that what you set as an example is what your children will follow.