What part of town do you live in?
South Gables. We’ve been here almost seven years.
What brought you to Miami?
My job. I am a pediatric neurosurgeon at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, which was Miami Children’s Hospital/ University of Miami.
Would you share a little about your family?
My husband is a stroke neurologist at University of Miami. We located here with our two kids, and then subsequently we’ve had two more children. Four little kiddos. And, two wonderful nannies that help me take care of my kids when I’m at work all day long and when he’s at work.
Do you talk a lot of shop at home?
We try not to, but it’s more than a career, it’s kind of a lifestyle for us. Inevitably we end up talking about something. It sometimes depressing to see where healthcare is going because we’re focused on taking care of patients and I think there have been a lot of obstacles in our way. Obstacles between us and our patients, which isn’t what we really want.
Do you have any ideas of what would make it better?
That’s a difficult question. I don’t think there’s an exact solution, but we have to do better than we’re doing right now. The beauty of the University of Miami/ Jackson/ Nicklaus Children’s Hospital is that we don’t turn anybody away. We take care of everybody, which isn’t the same at other places.
Why did you choose pediatric neurosurgery?
When I was little, my dad was super sick and I always wanted to cure him. He had a heart condition and suddenly died when I was a teen. So…I didn’t want to have anything to do with the heart. I grew up in the DC area and gravitated towards the brain because I got an internship, at the end of my high school year, to work at the National Institute of Health. I assisted in one of the labs looking at the effects of HIV on rhesus monkeys. I went in with blinders on and said, this is what I’m going to do from the time I was in high school up until the I got through med school.
Honestly, kids do so much better than adults. They’re much more pleasant to deal with. They’re always happy.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I really enjoy the patients. I think it’s such a privilege to be able to do what I do, to have the trust of a parent in a really grave situation. And, to see those kids year after year thriving. We usually follow them until they become adults. It’s rewarding to see these kids grow up and become amazing human beings.
What technology is at the forefront of neurosurgery?
We have a lot of cool things. One of the things that we’re using a lot of right now is an intra-operative MRI. It can help locate a seizure. It’s actually pretty amazing. We’re the only children’s hospital in Florida that has one. We can take out a tumor in real time and get an image to make sure it’s all out or use image guidance to get them out. We’ve come a long way.
What’s the most common question you get?
Will everything be okay?
(A+W) That’s so tough. How do answer that question?
Yes, it will be ok. There’s treatments for everything, we’re going to get through the first steps and if it requires surgery and then chemo and radiation, we’re going to get the best team available and move forward.
I heard that it’s very different in an operating room as soon as a neurosurgeon walks in. Is that true?
We’re a bit demanding, but I think that it’s important to treat everybody in your staff as an equal participant. I can’t do my job without the phenomenal nurses and ancillary staff that I have. That’s the beauty of the team we have at Children’s – we’re more down to earth. Honestly, it’s why I joined the team here. I joined two phenomenal people, and unfortunately one of my partners passed away last year. I think the most important thing is to find a group of physicians who will really treat you as more than a number. That’s what we do.
How often do you come to the Pinecrest Market?
I try to come twice a month. I’m on call two weekends out of the month. Usually on the weekends, my husband is on call, so I’ll bring the kids myself.
What do you like most about the market?
I think it’s just nice to see the community. When we lived in Seattle, we lived downtown and there was a public market where you would see a lot of the same faces. That’s the same sense I get at the Pinecrest market. I always see somebody I know, or my kids see some of their classmates. And then, seeing you guys at your stand and the kids loving your smoothies – you know, it’s nice.
What’s your market ritual?
The first thing we do is come to you because we always want your smoothies. My second youngest likes to get orange juice, and then go to the playground. We really just come for you guys to be honest.
What do you get from our stand?
The smoothies, the jackfruit, avocados, the turmeric, the golden coins. We kind of do a spattering of it all.
What other stands do you like?
We love the orange juice. And Zak the Baker, and there used to be a French bakery guy. Also, there used be a booth called Me and a Tree. After the hurricane, a lot of people didn’t come back. I’d love to see some of those people come back.
(A+W) The French Guy, Francis, is back! He’s in the middle section.
What is the market missing?
I’d love to see more fresh produce, more local farmers coming and selling their stuff – like you guys. You’re a real farm. Not the people selling produce from a box, which is what I see sometimes.
What do you enjoy doing with your kids?
I spend as much time at home as possible, because we’re always working. It’s really nice, to have a lazy day at home and take a walk. We live right next to Fairchild, so we walk along Old Cutler into the Matheson Hammock area. And, just hang out at our pool.
Do you go out to restaurants?
We rarely do. We probably go out once a year, unless it’s a work related thing. We really enjoy staying home, I love cooking.
What do you like to cook?
My husband’s background is Indian, so I make Indian food. My background is Afghan, so I make a lot of Afghan food. We’re pretty vegetarian in our household. So, just really making anything with fresh fruits and vegetables and trying different recipes.
What would a typical Afghan dish be?
It’s very similar to Persian food. One dish is rice with saffron and barberries – which are like currents that are a little bit sour. Then a stew made of lamb and split peas.
Where did you go for your one restaurant outing this year?
For our wedding anniversary, we went to Il Gabbiano which was actually pretty good.
What’s Miami’s best kept secret?
The coffee. Any good Cuban Coffee. I pretty much live at the hospital, and some of the coffee stands in the hospital are phenomenal.
What’s a worthy splurge?
A day to relax and reconnect. Just spend time and appreciate being alive. I think that’s the most important thing. I think that’s the best splurge you can do for yourself.
What community groups do you participate in that you might like to share?
We have a foundation at the hospital. Near and dear to my heart, 365 days a year, is supporting the kids we treat. One of the things that upsets me is how we say, ‘buy local, do things local’, but at Christmas time – when you go to a store and they say ‘donate to St Jude’s’, – we really should be donating to our local hospitals and seeing what our local hospitals can do. There are always kids in the hospital for Christmas and there’s so much we can do to try and make their day better.
(A+W) How can we find out how to donate locally to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital?
(T) Contact me or visit the website.
(T) Also, we’re part of Haiti Healthy Kids. My partner has taken an amazing lead, where he goes down to Haiti and provides surgical care for the children. Now what they’re doing is training the locals, so they can have boots on the ground at all times to help and take care of the kids. It’s like, you don’t want to just feed them fish, you want them to have a fisherman who is able to catch.
We typically ask people if they would like to share a pitch, is there anything you would like to share?
I hope that nobody ever needs me. I think a world where we are not necessary would be an ideal place. Hopefully, one day that happens.
Is there a question you would like to ask us?
(T) Have you guys thought of opening a store? And,do you work on other things besides the market?
(A+W) We’ve thought about it, but the right situation has not come up, probably because we need to open something on the farm. Maybe as we grow into other products a store will make sense. Outside of the market, Walt is a designer and working on a new watch he designed from sketch. The first prototype just came in. Ask him to take a peak on Sunday.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Life is so short that we can’t forget to appreciate every moment. We need to remind ourselves of how lucky we are that we are here every day and that tomorrow is not ever promised for any one of us.