Elizabeth Virginia-Hartman always wanted to work with children.
By Robin Jovanovich
Elizabeth Virginia-Hartman always wanted to work with children. She was a diving instructor at camp and, in her 30s, the coach of her country club’s team. But as the mother of three, ages 14, 11, and 9, and a busy pediatrician who makes house calls, she’s had to dive into other duties.
After graduating cum laude from Lehigh University, she received her medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. She did her medical training in pediatric emergency departments at several New York City hospitals. “I was on rotation in all five boroughs!” she said in a recent interview.
Always an active, healthy individual — she grew up in Staten Island on a lake where she swam and ice skated, walked everywhere, and quickly developed street smarts — Hartman said that training at St. Vincent’s in the West Village left a big impression. “That was where the whole alternative medicine, organic route started.”
Since then she’s worked at Northern Westchester Hospital and been a member of a big practice, Westchester Health, but she wanted to be able to spend time with patients — less and less likely in the current health care environment — and do more than write prescriptions for ear infections. On a recent day, she saw three patients with sore throats and had them on the path to recovery quickly.
So, after settling down in Rye a few years ago, after living in Summit, New Jersey, and Chappaqua before that, Dr. Liz decided to go out on her own. “I started Dr. Liz House Calls in part to be able to comfort and tend to young patients in their own homes where they’re relaxed and see me as non-threatening.” This is her third flu season.
Hartman said that when she saw patients in an office she was more likely to give them prescriptions for antibiotics, but now she holds off because she can check on them the next day to see if they really need them. More often, she sends parents to Rye Beach Pharmacy — “a wonderful resource” — for honey-based throat products. “If they went to a nutritionist, they’d prescribe a mug of hot water with lemon,” said the old-fashioned doctor.
Among her patients are several overweight kids. “I don’t give them unrealistic goals. I advise them to walk more and not to gain any more weight.”
She routinely gets calls from a mom whose child has a stomachache or a sore throat and is unsure whether to send the child to school. Dr. Liz gets there in time to make the judgment call. “The diagnosis is most likely a virus. For a pediatrician, it’s all about observation, but moms know their children and they help me enormously.” On a school morning last month, Dr. Liz did a rapid strep test at 6:30 a.m. and determined a teen could go to school that day.
When she was called to see a child with a stomachache, she knew she was dealing with something serious. The boy had a cancerous tumor, which luckily was quickly and successfully treated.
Part of the reason she is a success is that she makes house calls, an enormous convenience, but the primary reason is that she’s a keen listener. Rye parents depend on her. She’s got a Facebook page that young mothers go to all the time for free help.
She offers practical advice for all ages: 85 percent of people do not wash their hands often enough and far too many illnesses and infections result simply because of that. “Don’t spend thousands of dollars on unnecessary supplements and don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize!”
The Hartman family makes their own smoothies. “Kids don’t need caffeine and shouldn’t be regulars at Starbucks,” she stressed. “Families don’t sit down to a healthy dinner often enough, but with a little planning and less pizza they can.”
Dr. Liz credits her upbringing for giving her the discipline that’s helped her make her way in the world. “My grandfather was a big influence, and pusher of professions because no one could take that away from you. My older brother became a lawyer.” As far as becoming a good doctor, she thanks the fabulous physicians she trained under.
“I can work anywhere, but when my husband and I were looking for a community with neighborhoods where kids can walk and we can boat, it was hard to do better than Rye,” she said. “And I’ve become part of the community. I’m in the Rye Lions Club!”
You can reach Dr. Liz at 315-7015 and read more about her at drlizhousecalls.com.