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AAP-CA3’s Inspiring Women Feature on Dr. Marsha Spitzer

For Women’s History Month, we are recognizing chapter members who are making AAP-CA3 history.

Dr. Marsha Spitzer, MD, FAAP, is Chief of Pediatrics for Clinical Support at Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) and serves as the Chair of the AAP Chapter Forum Management Committee, Medical Director for Reach Out and Read San Diego, and Chief of Pediatrics for Scripps Mercy Hospital.

Please take some time to read through Dr. Spitzer’s inspiring story she shared with us. And if you haven’t already, we encourage you to read her feature in SD Voyager.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a doctor/pediatrician? 

“After taking all the premed classes during college, I decided this wasn’t for me. In my first job after college, I had the opportunity to work with physicians who were very involved in public health and that re-sparked my interest in applying to medical school. During my 3rd year pediatrics rotation, I remember pre-rounding in the morning on a toddler who had just been transferred out of the PICU. Her mom was excited to tell me that she had taken her first steps the night before. After I presented her case on rounds and talked about the treatment plan for the day, I shared that story. My very senior, very formal attending took everyone in the room, got down on his knees, and reached out his hands to encourage her to walk to him – and that was it for me.”


2) Who are some of your role models and why?

“I have been very fortunate to be mentored by amazing leaders at FHCSD like our CEO Fran Butler Cohen, VP Janet Adamian, and Chief of Pediatrics Dr. Khawla Suleiman.  And in my roles with national AAP I have had the opportunity to meet many incredible women on the Board of Directors and senior staff.”


3) What are the most significant barriers you had to overcome?

“One challenge was when I practiced pediatrics in Guam for two years while my husband served as a U.S. Navy pediatrician there. Moving from Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, to a remote island with a small, local hospital with 15 pediatricians and no specialists was incredibly stressful.”


4) What are some of the leadership roles you currently hold, and can you speak to the importance of having more women in leadership positions?

“I am currently the Chief of Pediatrics for Clinical Support at FHCSD in my day job.  I also serve as the Chair of the AAP Chapter Forum Management Committee, Medical Director for Reach Out and Read San Diego, and Chief of Pediatrics for Scripps Mercy Hospital.  I think it’s incredibly important for women to be involved in leadership as more diverse leadership equals a better workplace for all. Women in medicine are often balancing the roles of physician, spouse/partner, and mother, and it’s important that each cohort of women have both mentors further along in their careers and the opportunity to mentor those who may be starting out in their careers.”


5) What advice would you give to women who are going through medical school, residency, or who are early in their career?

“No one should feel pressured to aspire to be that superwoman who can do it all! Instead, choose what is important to you in your work life and your home life, knowing that sometimes the balance shifts, but that is OK.  

Also – pizza is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food.”


6) What are some initiatives/programs/efforts you would like to promote or want people to know more about?

Reach Out and Read! I love that this program is so simple and yet so powerful – it’s all about a book, a child, a family, and their pediatric provider talking about and modeling the joy of shared reading time. Most of us get that warm, fuzzy feeling when we think about reading with our own parents or caregivers and we want all children to have that wonderful experience.”