I grew up in Philadelphia in a family of obstetricians. My father, uncle and great uncle all delivered lots of babies — including me — over many years.
My dad couldn't talk to me specifically about his patients, but it was obvious that he loved his work. His enthusiasm rubbed off on me. Even as a kid, I was excited to follow in his footsteps.
According to my parents, that meant going to college and medical school in Philadelphia so that I could continue the family's obstetrical legacy. To prepare me for that track, my father began taking me to baby deliveries when I was 13 — only to watch me faint repeatedly in the delivery room.
My squeamishness didn't faze my parents. Rather than tell me I didn't have what it takes to become a doctor, they said they believed in me. They assured me that if medicine really was my passion, I'd overcome my fainting problem in time. At their suggestion, I volunteered in an emergency room. That did the trick. By the time I graduated from high school, I was no longer afraid of blood.
My new confidence gave me a clearer sense of my interests. I didn't want to deliver babies, but to take care of them after they were born, from the toddler to adolescent years. So I chose to train as a pediatrician in Boston.
I thought my parents would be disappointed. Instead, they told me that the specifics of my career, and where I pursued it, were far less important to them than my happiness — even if that meant leaving the city, and profession, my family had inhabited for generations.
At 59 years old, I've now been happily practicing pediatrics for more than 33 years. I realize that discovering my own meaningful career path, not just following in my dad's footsteps, is also what made my parents happy — something I keep in mind as my children prepare to set out on their own. No matter what they decide to do with their lives, I hope they know how much my wife and I believe in them, as much as my own parents have always believed in me.