Dr. Roma's Story
“If there is a will…there is always a way”, is the motto that I have lived by since the age of 10 years old. I distinctly remember the day I decided to become a physician.
You see, I was the second child of a family of five siblings, raised solely by my mother. My parents were divorced when I was young. We all worked together as a unit and helped each other. My mother had recently opened a restaurant. Most mornings, I can remember waking up to the smell of the soup of the day mixed with boiling eggs for the egg salad sandwiches mixed with boiling pasta for the homemade pasta salad. After school and on the weekends, I waited on tables to earn at least a quarter that I would use to run next door to the convenient store to play a Pac Man or Asteroid video game.
At this time, I recall my evenings were busy helping my mother prepare dinner for the family, mixed with studying with all of the siblings at the kitchen table. I used to make believe that I was the teacher and would teach especially my younger brothers and sister. Money was tight, and I could always feel when my mother would have a hard day at work. It was somewhere in this moment that I decided not to become a teacher, but a doctor! This way I could accomplish my goals of helping children, inspiring minds all while making enough money in case my family ever needed it. Once my decision was announced, I never have wavered. A few decades later, I am standing here before you humbled, blessed, and very grateful for the support of the North Shore of Chicago, especially Winnetka. The journey I took until I announced the opening of my medical home at 542 Lincoln Street in Winnetka has been a tribute to my the support of my family, friends, community, patients and staff.
In short, I was born and raised in southern California. I started University of Southern California in 1987 only to transfer in 1989 to the State University of New York at Stony Brook. After my undergraduate degree was accomplished, I attended Ross Medical School located in the West Indies. I lived on the island of Dominica for two years to complete my academic portion of medical school then returning to New York to continue my clinical years of medical school. While in New York, I kept on hearing about the infamous Cook County Hospital in Chicago. I loaded up my belongings and drove to Chicago to begin my three month rotation in Internal Medicine at Cook County. Because my medical experience there was so inspirational, I decided with no hesitation to complete the remainder of my clinical rotations at Cook County Hospital. Upon completion of medical school, I decided that continuity of patient care was essential for me to practice medicine. Christ Hospital and Hope Children’s Hospital in the city of Oak Lawn was the perfect compliment to my education. Hope Children’s Hospital education and lifelong experiences enabled me with confidence to open my pediatric practice the very next day upon graduation from its residency program.
People have always asked me why I chose to establish my solo pediatric practice in Winnetka. I have always replied that Winnetka chose me. While I was in residency in Oak Lawn, I found myself driving to Evanston to relax and take very deep breaths of the lake’s fresh air on the beach surrounded by the Northwestern University’s students. The calm of the lake and the peace of the people from around the world integrated with astounding architecture, made the North Shore a perfect home for me. I drove around looking for a space to lease, found a small 500 square foot place and met the broker to sign the lease. The broker told me that I should look at one more property in Winnetka before signing. I had no idea where Winnetka was located. I followed her in my car only to discover the enchanting Village of Winnetka. I signed that week. I started my solo pediatric practice in July 1999 with zero patients. Today, I now care for over 1,000 children and 500 families of the North Shore.
My pediatric practice was created for children to feel safe, happy, and empowered when visiting their doctor. I designed each pediatric room with a theme including a custom animal examination table, with walls covered with current medical information for the parents and toys for the siblings. Children and parents have embraced this unique approach to pediatric medicine making my job as a pediatrician a lot easier.
The transition into aesthetic medicine was natural for me. As the parent’s of my ten-year pediatric practice were aging, they would inquire about the latest medical anti-aging remedies such as Botox, facial fillers, and varicose veins. I found myself completely fascinated by all that was available. In my spare time, I started studying aesthetic medicine. I called the makers of Botox, Allergan, and asked them to send me to the best place to receive the most advanced education possible. I knew that if I failed a client with Botox, my community would know and if I succeeded a client’s expectations with Botox, nobody in my community would know.
In October of 2007, I established Face Forward, A Medical Spa. I converted my personal office room into a medical spa room. The room was so full of medical equipment that the door could not even open all of the way to enter. I hired an aesthetician to perform services that did not require a physician: hair removal, microdermabrasions, photofacials, and chemical peels. Face Forward was not only embraced by my pediatric practice, but provided my business the cash flow to move into a larger facility. Click to read more about Serving a Dual Purpose. This cash flow from my medical spa has allowed me to remain a solo pediatrician, a goal that is very important to me. As I have been practicing for over ten years, it is clear, pediatric medicine demands continuity of care. I am very proud to say that I know each and every one of my patients. I am responsible by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Knowing each and every one of my patients has been my absolute pleasure. My dedication, passion, and hard work has accomplished my personal goal of keeping each and every child safe.
March 3, 2009, I established my medical home. I have personally designed and created a space that is separated into my pediatric practice and medical spa on the second floor overlooking the still enchanting Village of Winnetka. I believe that I have accomplished the sensation of home, calm, and warmth whichever side you should to venture. My pediatric practice is divided into a well side for routine check-ups and a sick side. Each room has a painted scene with a custom animal examination table surrounded by my trademark theme of education, play, and comfort. My medical spa is a perfect composition of peace and elegance…two factors that every woman and man should feel when entering.
A year after the build out, on a much-needed vacation, my life took an unexpected turn. I was in a terrible ski accident with my children in Vail. Although the fallout and recovery were long and arduous, I find in every moment of every day I am eternally grateful. I am grateful to have suffered the injury while protecting my youngest daughter from an out-of-control snowboarder. I am grateful for the bravery demonstrated by my oldest daughter by calling for help on the ski slope. I am grateful for the outpouring of support, love, and prayers from the children and parents of my practice and the community. I am grateful to the families who provided my family with an abundance of wonderful meals and the beautiful array of flowers I received to get well. I feel I am blessed.
I can only now begin to reflect on the fast pace I had been living in order to achieve my goals of completing medical school, finishing my residency - only to get married, start a solo pediatric practice, have two wonderful children, build a home, relocate my practice, open a second business, get a divorce…and then BOOM! This unfortunate accident has forced me to open my eyes, given me an awakened heart, and made me a grateful being who prioritizes the values that are truly important in this life.
People often ask…How do I balance everything? I often respond honestly. Most days are extra-ordinary and some days are hectic and a few are up to God. In short, my balance for work, life, family, and love are the family and friends that I have chosen to support me. My pediatric and aesthetic work teams are exceptional. My mother is my best friend and my two amazing girls are my life. I believe in me and all that I have created to accomplish my goal of will… please enjoy the way I believe a medical spa and pediatric practice should be.