Education: Received Bachelor of Science in psychology from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi; Graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson, Mississippi; Completed pediatrics residency at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida.
Family/Hometown: Grew up in Magnolia, Mississippi, where parents Lem and Alice live. Brother Jeff, sister-in-law April, 11-year-old niece Harper, and six-year-old nephew Carson, live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Hobbies: Grew up dancing–ballet was a favorite. Has enjoyed liturgical dancing since high school and enjoys dancing occasionally at St. Paul United Methodist Church as part of worship. Started running for exercise during first job out of pediatrics residency and later began long-distance running.
Favorite Vacation: Camp DeSoto in Mentone, Alabama. (Nestled in the mountains, DeSoto is a sacred, safe space for girls to grow in their faith and be free to discover their true selves.) Camped there for nine years and was a counselor for three years. Is looking forward to returning as a camp doctor during the summer.
Book on Nightstand: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard and Suffering Strong by Katherine and Jay Wolfe. Next up: A White Wind Blew by James Markert.
Medical News: Why did you become a doctor and why did you choose this specialty?
Julia Mitchell: My childhood physician, Dr. Gillies, first inspired me to be a doctor with his calm, gentle, grandfather-like demeanor. He told me my curly hair came from hugging him, my doctor. Mentors have modeled for me the importance of compassionate care. At its best, medicine is a ministry with the interaction between physician and families a sacred space; people come to the doctor at vulnerable times of illness or uncertainty, and we pediatricians have the privilege and responsibility of offering reassurance and guidance to parents and children.
I love children; they give me joy! According to my parents, I started saying I wanted to be a pediatrician at the age of four. During medical school, I considered family medicine due to its humanistic, holistic approach to care. However, during my pediatrics rotation when I picked up a crying baby in the nursery who subsequently quieted, I knew I had to pursue pediatrics, and I am so grateful I did.
MN: What drew you to Smoketown Family Wellness Center (SFWC)?
JM: I first learned about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) after my pediatrics residency at a continuing medical education conference in Mississippi. As I have attended conferences and learned more, I have become passionate about raising awareness of ACEs, toxic stress and resilience and have been able to share my knowledge with students in the healthcare field, congregants at my local church and members of my father’s Exchange Club. What children experience at a young age affects their developing brains and behaviors and can affect health outcomes throughout the lifespan. Thus, fostering resilience is crucial to mitigate negative effects of stress.
On my self-created “Dream Big” list in December 2019, I listed a trauma-informed clinic attached to a community center with specific and general ideas of implementing resilience-based services. On MLK Day 2020, Dr. Charlotte Stites reached out to me stating Smoketown was looking for another pediatrician. I did not know my dream would come true so soon!
I am excited about the team approach to care at SFWC by partnering with a family coach to address emotional and behavioral concerns of families. Seeing children in the context of their community is an important part of pediatrics in terms of looking at the social factors affecting children’s health. SFWC’s vision of community care and outreach resonates with me. Food security, housing stability, family support and emotional regulation are factors determining how healthy a child will be. Thus, we as pediatricians must ensure those aspects of health are addressed and fostered which will also result in communities with increased well-being.
MN: What are your goals for your first year at Smoketown Family Wellness Center?
JM: I wish to uphold the vision of SFWC by engaging patients and families in trauma-informed care. I wish to work with the family coach for an integrated approach to address emotional-behavioral health needs of families. I would love for more families to learn about us and our unique services and come see us; we are open to new patients and have more time built-in to see patients at each visit. This unique model of healthcare is refreshing to me as a physician and I think will be well-received by patients and families as well.
MN: What is the biggest misconception about your field?
Healthcare is being pushed toward a business model rather than a service model. As a result, quality of care can suffer as certain topics are expected to be addressed to get reimbursement while other topics may be neglected in a traditional setting. However, it is those often-neglected topics of social determinants of health and stress that have a profound impact on health for the individual and family. I am grateful to be joining a clinic that recognizes the utmost importance of addressing these crucial social health factors.
MN: What are you most proud of in your work as a pediatrician?
JM: I am honored when families trust me, confide in me and return to see me or even transfer their care from another facility to ensure that I remain their children’s pediatrician.
MN: How is SFWC responding to COVID-19?
JM: Some COVID-19 restrictions have lifted somewhat and we are seeing babies and toddlers for well checkups who need primary immunizations. We are are now doing well checkups for older children. We are offering telehealth services for sick visits.
The additional programming for families and the community has been suspended until we can safely gather in groups again. However, we are providing supplemental food as well as books and educational or enrichment materials to children and families who stop by outside our clinic for food from Jefferson County Public Schools from 10 am until 10:30 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We are increasing our social media presence with video messages. Today I talked about hand washing and asked for replies about favorite songs children like to sing as they wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds.
MN: Advice or values received over the years that has resonated?
I have learned the value of perseverance and tenacity through study and sacrifice to meet my goals; my family has lovingly supported me and modeled for me determination and persistence. My brother inspires me with his intentional leadership. My mom encourages me to be myself. My dad once wrote me, “We do not always win friends and please patients or clients by being professional; but at all times, we best serve patients or clients by being professional.” In other words, I must do what is right and what is supported by evidence when evidence is available to serve my patients well, even if the families have an unmet expectation such as cough medication for a young child or an antibiotic for a likely viral infection. I am fortunate to have such loving support from my own family, and I want to provide such love and support to the families I serve.
MN: Do you have any heroes in healthcare?
JM: Dr. Gillies, my childhood physician who first inspired me to be a doctor, and Dr. Nadine Burke Harris who increased awareness of ACEs, toxic stress, and resilience among pediatricians, are two of my healthcare heroes.
MN: How have you gone the extra mile, above and beyond your daily tasks to improve patient care?
JM: I spend time with my patients and families and am very thorough with my visits with them. I address social and behavioral needs when appropriate, sometimes addressing needs beyond the originally stated reason for the visit. SFWC embraces this holistic model of healthcare, and I am excited to be a part of the team. Going the extra mile for families is our norm at Smoketown Family Wellness Center, and we welcome more patients and families to benefit from the unique services we offer.