‘So much reward in helping children’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Before patients even walk through the door of Suffolk Pediatrics (SP), they’ll realize that there’s something new about it. Even from the parking lot, it’s easy to see that the practice is a bit different than the office it was only three weeks ago.

That’s because there’s a new name on the door, one that was only recently engraved in the glass. It’s the name of Dr. Tonia Cox, who only joined the facility on July 19.

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Cox isn’t just new to Suffolk; she’s a fresh face in the entire medical community. After receiving her doctorate from the Medical College of the University of Tennessee in 2001, she completed her residency at Norfolk’s Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) in late June.

&uot;I love it (at SP),&uot; said Cox, who still lives in Norfolk. &uot;I’ve had a lot of really great interactions with the people here.&uot;

Her journey toward the &uot;doctorhood&uot; began in Lancing, a small town in Tennessee. &uot;I was always interested in science,&uot; she said. &uot;My mother was a naturalist and worked in a national park, so I was exposed to a lot of science in nature, as well as the arts.&uot;

Cox used the arts as her first path through college – after spending a year in Detmold, Germany as a high school student, she graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in German literature in 1997.

But by then, she’d already discovered her interest in the medical field. &uot;I was a volunteer in the local hospitals, working in the recovery room to help patients after surgery, and helping out the nurses,&uot; she said. &uot;By my last year in college, I knew I definitely wanted to go to medical school.&uot;

She did so, heading across the state to the university’s medical school (it’s in Memphis; the main campus is nine hours away in Knoxville). Cox spent her first two years in medical school learning the basics through classroom lectures and labs.

Then she went out into the &uot;real&uot; world – the students spent their third year performing two-month clinical rotations in internal medicine, surgery, family practice, psychiatry, OB/GYN, and, of course, pediatrics.

&uot;It was for the children,&uot; Cox said of her selection. &uot;There was so much reward in helping children. Pediatrics offers a unique opportunity to intervene in children’s lives and change things for the better. There is immediate gratification; kids are often quick to get sick, but also quick to get better.&uot;

That’s why she headed east to Norfolk to do her residency at the CHKD, just as fellow SP physicians Jane Robertson and Laura Leverone had before her. She did three years of training on the hospital’s individual wards, in the emergency room, and the outpatient and subspecialty clinics.

Finally, near the end of June, the journey she began over seven years ago was at an end – Cox was ready to make her own mark on the medical world. SP gave her a special chance to do so. &uot;I really felt a connection with the people here,&uot; she said. &uot;This is a pleasant work environment.&uot;

It’s also a casual one – attired in a jean jacket and khakis, Cox follows SP’s tradition of informal wear around its young patients and parents. &uot;Kids are sometimes intimidated by the white coats,&uot; she said. &uot;There’s a certain type of person who goes into pediatrics, and it’s someone who likes to work hard, but still can have fun while they work.&uot;