Big City Pediatrician Loves Small Town Life

With its year-round beach weather and laid-back surf culture, sun-drenched San Diego is California's dream city.

But Dr. Jaclin La Barbera and her husband, MCMC cardiologist Dr. Matt LaBarbera, felt something akin to island fever—a claustrophobia often experienced by island residents who feel stuck in place and disconnected from the outside world.

Thanks to traffic on the coast of Southern California, which slows to a crawl for most of the day, if you want to head north, you have to fly. But that's hard with young children. The doctors were also tired of commuting and wanted more time to enjoy outdoor activities.

"We kept looking until we found something that was a better fit for our family," said Dr. LaBarbera, a pediatrician at MCMC.

Growing Up in the Gorge

With world-class recreation and a small-town feel, the Gorge is a perfect fit for the growing family.

The LaBarberas have four boys who range in age from 8 months to 6 years. Their youngest was born in the Gorge, shortly after Dr. Jaclin LaBarbera joined MCMC Pediatrics.

With both parents working full time at MCMC, daycare is a necessity. Great 'N Small Child Development Center is located a few minutes away on the hospital campus, which means her three youngest boys are close enough to visit during the day.

"I try not to disrupt their schedule, but it's nice to be around when one of the kids is sick or there's an emergency,” she said.

Her middle children, twin 3-year­old boys, already figured out that switching names can be a fun game. It doesn't work with their parents, but sometimes their teachers fall for it.

In their free time, the family has enjoyed exploring the outdoors.

"The kids are finally big enough to do some stuff,” said Dr. LaBarbera. "We've done some hiking. They're still really young to do much else with us. Matt has been trying to do some dirt biking. I've never done it before, so I've mostly fallen."

The LaBarberas both surf and are hoping to get to the coast more often.

The Gorge is also within driving distance of her parents and sister. Dr. LaBarbera grew up in Lebanon, where her family still lives.

"We've definitely seen more of my family since moving,” she said.

"The boys have loved going to Nana and Papa's house. The cousins are seeing each other, which is great."

The Littlest Patients

As a pediatric intensivist, Dr. LaBarbera specializes in caring for seriously ill infants and children.

She enjoys partnering with families through the difficult times when a child is ill. As a mother she understands the stress of having a sick child, from a simple ear infection to chronic disease.

Practicing at MCMC gives her the opportunity to develop long-term relationships with her patients and their families. It's very different than practicing in a city.

"When I went out on maternity leave, I ran into a patient's mom," Dr. LaBarbera said. "She gave me cookies. I think it's very nice that your patients can see you out and about and that you're a mom. You also get to know the doctors and nurses very well."