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AAP-CA3’s Pediatrician Spotlight: Kanani Titchen, MD, FAAP
Adolescent Medicine Physician, UC San Diego School of Medicine

Pediatrician Spotlight is a segment in Coastal Currents highlighting one of AAP-CA3’s Outstanding Chapter Members or programs.

Dr. Titchen earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and music from Tufts University and worked as a professional theater actress and teaching artist before earning her premedical certificate from Columbia University and her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where she also completed her pediatrics residency. She completed an adolescent medicine fellowship at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx, N.Y. She now is an Assistant Professor and Adolescent Medicine specialist at UC San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital. Dr. Titchen has expertise in trauma-sensitive adolescent healthcare, sexual and reproductive health, eating disorders, and human trafficking and is the director of the UCSD/Rady Children’s Hospital Adolescent Reproductive Medicine Clinic. She serves on committees for the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a member of the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Dr. Titchen is a nationally recognized speaker on the topic of human trafficking, is a consultant to HEAL Trafficking and the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Center for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is Co-Founder of the Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans, a program of the American Medical Women’s Association.

AAP-CA3: What is your current job/professional responsibilities?
Dr. Titchen: I’m an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UC San Diego and Rady Children’s Hospital, which entails a combination of inpatient care on the Rady Medical Behavioral Unit for patients with eating disorders, outpatient clinic care for a variety of adolescent specific conditions, teaching for medical trainees, and research.

AAP-CA3: How did you first get involved in the AAP?
Dr. Titchen: I joined the AAP at the very start of my pediatric residency in Philadelphia. Right away, one thing that struck me as being very different about the AAP compared to a number of other medical professional associations was the emphasis on our patients and our advocacy for our patients. I was fortunate to have Dr. Esther Chung as a mentor in medical school and in residency, and Dr. Chung is a powerhouse when it comes to physician advocacy and medical student education. I was afforded the opportunity to advocate for patients in Harrisburg, PA, as well as through major newspapers and radio stations in Philadelphia, thanks in large part to Dr. Chung’s guidance.

AAP-CA3: Why should pediatricians join the AAP?
Dr. Titchen: Reasons for joining and being part of the AAP are plenty! The 3 most important reasons for me include improving connection to colleagues in my geographical area and in my subspecialty; keeping up to date on research and new developments in general pediatrics and adolescent medicine through AAP News and other publications; and ability to more effectively advocate for our patients through coordinated responses to state and federal policies.

AAP-CA3: What is your current role in the AAP-CA3 chapter?
Dr. Titchen: Currently I’m serving on the Chapter 3 School Health Committee. And I’m a proud recipient of an AAP CATCH grant who benefited enormously from the knowledge, assistance and generosity of colleagues such as Dr. Lase Ajayi, Dr. Emily Fletcher, Meredith Kennedy, as well as Dr. Sheila Gahagan, Dr. Kyung Rhee, and Dr. Bretten Pickering.

AAP-CA3: What do you enjoy most about being a chapter member?
Dr. Titchen: I enjoy most the connection and support AAP-CA3 provides. My husband and I moved to San Diego from New York City just before the COVD-19 pandemic shutdown began. In the midst of this isolation, the AAP-CA3 chapter has provided me with professional contacts to better do my job and advance my career, but also with more personal-professional contacts including Dr. Janet Crow who stepped up to help me during a recent family death.

AAP-CA3: How does the chapter support your passion?
Dr. Titchen: AAP-CA3 has provided me with a platform to raise awareness about human trafficking, a public health issue which affects many San Diegans. San Diego is 8th in the nation for reported cases of labor and sex trafficking, and research shows that most victims and survivors of human trafficking see a medical professional while they’re being exploited. I think many of us fantasize about being on the right side of history: as a child, I used to wish I could have been a part of the Underground Railroad to help enslaved people find their freedom. Now, all of us have this opportunity to see and acknowledge exploitation and to do something about it. I find that enormously encouraging.

AAP-CA3: Did you have a mentor who influenced you to become the physician that you are now?
Dr. Titchen: Of course! How much time do you have?! I had – and still have – many mentors. One of my mentors was my boss and director when I worked as an actor in a repertory company: Jeff Miller demonstrated trauma-sensitive care to me and my fellow actors and to our students before anyone was talking about this. Dr. Krishna White introduced the field of Adolescent Medicine to me and to this day remains a role model for how I’d like to be when I grow up. Dr. Elizabeth Alderman showed me what having a strong voice for leadership and change sounds like. Dr. Susan Coupey and Dr. Sofya Maslyanskaya helped me hone my interest and knowledge of reproductive health care – and IUD insertion skills! I continue to rely on Dr. Nancy Dodson and Dr. Maya Kumar for their knowledge and approach to eating disorder patients, and I count Dr. Liz Miller as a friend and rely on her expertise and humanistic approach to exploited youth and youth in the juvenile justice system. And there are so many other mentors and heroes – Dr. Bill McNett, Dr. Christopher Raab, Dr. Makini Chisolm-Straker, Dr. David Inwards-Breland, Dr. Tammy Maginot, Dr. Kate Ward… I’m leaving out bunches, too.

AAP-CA3: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Dr. Titchen: I carve time out of my day for canyon running and running on the beach, playing the piano, and reading (Ann Patchett, Brené Brown, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are favorites). My husband and I carve time out of our months or years to travel, visit family and friends, and volunteer (San Diego Refugee Tutoring, Nepal’s House with Heart, Planned Parenthood, etc).