Working with children is a rewarding experience for Dr. Soe Soe Mar, an assistant professor in the division of pediatric neurology. Her specialties include pediatric neurology, pediatric multiple sclerosis and pediatric headache. She sees patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital, One Children's Place, 2nd floor, suites C and D.
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Why did you choose pediatric neurology as your specialty?
|Dr. Mar with a patient
I completed my medical training in Burma. During my fourth year, I did a pediatric rotation at Yangon Children’s Hospital in the capital city and that started my interest in pediatric medicine.
It was such a unique experience because most of the families were very poor and their children were very sick. I found it a very enjoyable experience to see the children getting better.
My decision to specialize in pediatric neurology was made at the end of my residency, which I completed in England. Although every specialty of pediatric medicine was interesting, I chose to specialize in pediatric neurology, because I think the brain is the most mysterious part of the body.
After your residency in England, what brought you to the United States and Washington University?
I met my husband in England during my residency. At the time of our marriage, he had already planned to do research in the United States. I stayed in England for a few years, so we traveled back and forth. My husband liked the medical research here and finally talked me into relocating to New York. I had to repeat my residency in the United States, as British medical education is not recognized here. After my residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, we came to Washington University.
I looked forward to moving to St. Louis because it seemed a good place to raise our young daughter. The weather in St. Louis reminds me of Burma with its strong heat and heavy rain.
Your practice includes several aspects of neurology, which is more interesting?
I find diagnosing the undiagnosed neurological disorders the most interesting part of my clinical practice.
I see a number of children for headaches, which is one of the more common neurological disorders I treat. I find it very rewarding to see these children get better with the correct medicines and after making some lifestyle changes.
A large part of my practice is treating children with developmental delay. These patients have something neurologically wrong with them, but there is as yet no diagnosis. In those cases I may be a second or third opinion. There is a lot literature research, investigative digging and analyzing that goes into finding answers to the puzzle of these disorders.
My area of research interest focuses on children with white matter diseases, including acute disseminated encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, and leukodystrophy.
What new developments in your field are you most excited about?
The technology in genetics and radiology are advancing quickly, which helps us with diagnosing and understanding neurological disorders. Specifically, I am fascinated by new imaging techniques like directional diffusivity DTI or functional connectivity which we are using in our clinical research here at Washington University.
Where did you grow up?
I am from Yangon, the busy capital of Burma, now known as Myanmar. I was number five in a family of six children. Looking at my 10 year-old daughter, I realize that growing up in Burma was quite a different experience. What I miss about Burma is having the close ties of a big, extended family. There family members are always willing to help care for the children. One of the most difficult challenges I faced as a working mother was finding someone I could trust to take care of my child especially when she was much younger.
Which particular award or achievement is the most gratifying to you?
I enjoy teaching medical students and residents. I was gratified to be recognized with a distinguished award for Best Teacher in Pediatric Neurology in 2007. Washington University School of Medicine students are very intelligent and motivated. I am encouraged by the polite and considerate way in which they deal with patients and their families.
When you find time to be with your family, what do you like to do?
My family likes walking and biking together. Quite often when the weather is nice, we can be found enjoying the scenery of Forest Park. Another hobby we all enjoy is reading. The rest of the time I chauffeur my daughter to her activities. She takes lessons in violin and piano, and plays basketball.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My mentor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Rapin, once advised us to never put a diagnosis in a chart until we were sure of it, because that diagnosis will follow a child forever and no one will re-evaluate it.
As a pediatric specialist do you have any advice for parents?
I am concerned that the statistics for child obesity is skyrocketing in the United States. We are seeing a link between children with headaches and obesity. Among other diseases that are linked to child obesity are diabetes and bone problems. Since children are spending more time sitting at a computer or watching television, families need to work together to make good food choices and modify their overall lifestyle to include more exercise for everyone.
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