Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital congratulates Dr. Sharon Smile on her promotion to associate professor at the Department of Paediatrics, University of Toronto,effective July 1, 2022.
Dr. Smile, a developmental paediatrician at Holland Bloorview, has contributed significantly to improving health care for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that also present with eating and feeding challenges. She is a leader in psychopharmacologic management in children with ASD and has made significant contributions to supporting anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives in healthcare.
Dr. Smile is among 19 distinguished faculty members approved for the promotion by the University of Toronto this year. Holland Bloorview is proud of her exemplary accomplishments and her dedication to high quality, safe care to children with disabilities.
Recently, we interviewed Dr. Smile about her experience at Holland Bloorview.
What inspires you to move forward in your academic career and more specifically in your work at Holland Bloorview?
Every day I have the opportunity to work in an environment where I see the most magical and incredible humans, children and youth with differing abilities. They teach me to never give up, celebrate being present, to be grateful in the moment and that the world is a better place when there is laughter, love, kindness and acceptance. They are my inspiration.
Describe what you love most about your work at Holland Bloorview?
The opportunity to create and re-imagine care and services for children and youth to attain optimal health and improved quality of life. It is important to contribute to something bigger than yourself, influencing the lives of others in a positive way. Holland Bloorview facilitates this.
What has been a key component to your success?
- Perspective taking;
- Having a controlled positive response to failure and
- Not being distracted by failure. I follow this guide: The impediment to action advances action. What stands in your way, becomes the way. – Marcus Aureluis.
How did you end up being a doctor?
I went into paediatrics because of my curiosity around child development and health. I wanted to know why some children took a more scenic and challenging route on the road to development, where others had no difficulty in attaining skills. When I met the first child with autism in clinic, I knew that “autism” was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be part of the process/system to ensure that the child or youth with autism could accomplish whatever they wanted to do. I wanted to understand the “how,” but I have since learnt that my role is to ask ‘how can I help?’
Has mentorship played a role in your career?
The role of a mentor is to provide guidance, motivation and be a role model. As such, my mentors are children and youth with autism and their families. I aspire to model their resilience, fortitude, openness, brilliance and tenacity. In working with autistic individuals, I get a first-hand account of challenges that they face within the medical and academic ecosystems and this knowledge helps shape my academic and research interests.
What’s your perspective about stereotypes and bias towards children with disabilities?
Humans create stereotypes. Sometimes stereotypes are created out of misinformation and or disinformation. It’s unfortunate because viewing others through the lens of bias or stereotypes causes harm often, and for us working in the field of disability we know that language and perspective-taking matters. So it is important how we say things and how we view a person’s differing abilities. We have to learn to look at the positive things and strengths in everyone. We all have something great about and within us. Moreover, we all have things that are challenging for us to do. When we identify the challenges, we can address these with appropriate interventions. Stereotypes and biases are unhelpful, harmful and a deterrent to inclusion, acceptance and tolerance.
What would you say to students and trainees new to your field?
In the field of pediatrics, we have the privilege to think, to bring life-changing ideas to fruition, to do, to change, to serve, to support and to bring smiles to the most vulnerable but resilient humans, children. Therefore, I challenge students/ trainees to be unshakable in their endeavours; to be determined to leave the world a better place as they journey on, to be determined to challenge status quo, create a better alternative. Be bold and fearless. As written, work is love made visible.
What do you find most rewarding?
What I find rewarding is impacting one family at a time. If I can help a parent, child, youth in advancing whatever identified meaningful/ positive goals they have, whether it’s therapeutic, academic, medical, that’s rewarding, that’s success. The most rewarding thing to me is just being present, when a child or family needs you.
What are your future aspirations?
Advancing the understanding and management of feeding and eating disturbances in autism spectrum disorder is top of mind. I want to continue to have a child-like thirst for knowledge and exploration. To be limitless in thought, passion, creativity and compassion.