Pediatrician Jereme Butler Lends Both Ear and Heart to Her Young Patients
Everyone remembers the feeling of visiting the doctor as a child. Sitting on the crinkly paper, staring at the bone diagrams on the wall and squirming uncomfortably as you wait for the physician—a figure who seems untouchable—to enter the room. For most, the story ends with a pediatrician quickly administering a checkup, then curtly running off to finish the rest of their day. But not with Jereme Patricia Butler, MD.
“I like to treat every patient how I would want to be treated or how I’d want my child to be treated,” she says, “like they’re the only one who exists.”
Born in Maryland, Dr. Butler grew up in a robust family—her mother was one of 13 children. “I had hundreds of cousins,” she says, laughing. “There was always a baby!” Combine this with her parents’ occupation as teachers, and you have a recipe for little children always needing care. “That’s where my love for children came from,” she says.
She graduated magna cum laude from Wake Forest University in North Carolina before moving to California to complete her residency at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. For the past 22 years, Dr. Butler has been a pediatrician for Kaiser Permanente in Harbor City. Her ability to speak Spanish and American Sign Language allows her to see a broader range of patients, including the children of her former patients.
Although she loves every aspect of pediatrics, Dr. Butler delights in working with adolescents. She is the listening ear teenagers need but often don’t find. “With a 2-month-old, every two hours something is needed. Teenagers take care of things for themselves, but my office gives them a chance to communicate.”
“When things get challenging—because they will—stop, breathe and rebalance.”
With the stress teenagers face, Dr. Butler provides a safe space for them to open up. “We all want to be heard,” she says. “I think when [teens] know they’re heard, that’s where the love comes in. Knowing they were heard can help them take better care of themselves.”
Diving into the next chapter of her career, Dr. Butler is becoming a REACH coach at the Kaiser Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine. “REACH was developed to provide medical students resilience and problem-solving skills that will help them now and in the future,” she says. The program—which stands for Reflection, Education, Assessment, Coaching, and Health and well-being—emphasizes diversity, leadership and inclusion practices, so doctors can become aware of their own preconceived biases. “It’s a beautiful thing to learn how to see other perspectives and learn to give yourself grace,” she says.
The program stresses the importance of doctors asking for help and taking care of their well-being. Dr. Butler teaches students the power of collaboration and asking questions. With increased levels of burnout due to the coronavirus pandemic, mental health awareness has become a priority.
“Power naps!” Dr. Butler answers, laughing, when asked what she does for self-care. She also makes sure to consume enough water and finds bliss through prayer and positivity. “You have to sleep, you have to drink water, you have to take care of yourself,” she advises. “When things get challenging—because they will—stop, breathe and rebalance.”
Much of her happiness comes from spending time with her two daughters and husband, who encourage and support her career. Dr. Butler’s joy is infectious (pun intended!). Her optimistic outlook is something we can all admire.
“When you are helping others, you are learning and receiving that blessing tenfold,” she says, her smile lighting up the room.