Communication figures strongly in the goals the 2015-2016 chief residents have set for themselves. Their plans include broadening the resident curriculum and conferences to cover strategies for coping with the emotionally difficult situations that arise when caring for seriously ill children and their families. They also want to support a culture in which residents are encouraged to think for themselves and feel comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns. Finally, they are committed to ensuring residents receive a solid grounding as capable pediatricians from which they can pursue additional training as fellows or enter into primary care.

Rachel Ashworth, MD

Growing up in Kansas City, Dr. Ashworth knew she liked science and children, but it was an offer from a friend’s physician father that brought into focus how she could combine the two. Between her freshman and senior year in college, Dr. Ashworth shadowed a pediatric surgeon for two weeks. The experience sold her on becoming a pediatrician, and she later received her medical degree at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

As she continues her chief residency year, Dr. Ashworth looks forward to mentoring residents in training.

“I want to continue in academic medicine, so resident training will remain a significant part of my career,” she says. “I’m looking forward to gaining experience as a teacher and being involved in planning conferences and presenting interesting cases that will help residents expand their medical knowledge.”

Dr. Ashworth’s ultimate plan is to complete a pediatric intensive care fellowship. “I like everything about pediatrics, and the intensive care unit is the place where every specialty comes into play, sometimes on a daily basis,” she explains. “But beyond that, I want to help the children and their families during a time that may be the most difficult of their lives.”

Among the things Dr. Ashworth most appreciates about Children’s Hospital is the freedom everyone in training—from medical students to chief residents—has to ask questions of attending physicians who are leaders in their field. “Everyone is willing to take the time to talk about even the most basic medical topic in order to advance learning,” she says.

Dr. Ashworth and her husband, Craig, were married in May. Craig is in archery equipment sales. They enjoy outdoor activities, and spend many of their vacations in national parks hiking, camping, rafting and fishing. They also are the new “parents” to a German Shorthaired Pointer puppy, Franklin.

Erin Casey, MD

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Dr. Casey attended medical school at the University of Rochester. Receiving her medical degree was the fulfillment of a desire that began for her as a little girl playing with doctor kits and accompanying her mom—a biology teacher at a local college—as she taught classes on Saturdays. Even at the age of 5, she found it fascinating.

Dr. Casey’s choice of pediatrics was influenced by her childhood pediatrician and her love of children. “I thought if I was going to be a doctor and have busy days, how rewarding would it be to enter a patient room after working long hours and be able to save a child’s life or reassure parents their child is doing OK,” she says.

Upon completing her chief residency, Dr. Casey plans on entering general pediatrics. For the next year she is looking forward to teaching and interacting with residents and learning more about how the hospital at large operates.

“At Children’s Hospital there is a wonderful balance between having the independence to push yourself to learn what you really know, while at the same time having support from fellows and attendings,” she says. “I’m hoping over the next year to not only contribute to that teaching model but also encourage residents to develop the mutual support that makes learning fun and exciting.”

In her leisure time, Dr. Casey enjoys spending time with her husband, Scott Simpson, MD, who recently secured a position as a sports medicine physician in St. Louis. She also likes cooking, and traveling, especially to destinations with beaches.

David Sonderman, MD

A native of St. Louis, Dr. Sonderman attended St. Louis University High School and the University of Notre Dame. He received his medical degree from Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago and credits his own pediatrician, Steven Plax, MD, as instrumental in inspiring his interest in entering the field.

“Growing up, I saw the relationship Dr. Plax developed not only with myself but also with my parents and older sisters. He was someone I could trust,” he says. “I’ve always been attracted to the types of roles where I’m involved in supporting the wellness of others. I saw in Dr. Plax an example of how this could be done, particularly with children.”

Dr. Sonderman plans on becoming a primary care pediatrician, a goal supported by his experience with the Washington University Department of Pediatrics Community Outpatient Practice Experience (COPE) program.

“My COPE preceptor was Dr. Rebecca Bullivant at Kids Docs in Creve Coeur. The office was a great example of how to create a medical home for patients, where families rely on their relationships with their pediatricians over time to help make important decisions,” he says. “I’m looking forward to sharing in the journey of my own patients here in St. Louis after concluding my chief residency.”

Over the next year, Dr. Sonderman looks forward to helping residents develop a strong foundation in general pediatrics, as well as honing their skills communicating with their colleagues, patients and their families.

Dr. Sonderman’s wife, Molly, works in the Weston Career Center at Washington University’s Olin Business School. Much of the Sondermans’ free time is spent with their 15-month-old son, Luke. They enjoy spending time with family and friends and exploring the beautiful parks around the St. Louis area with their yellow lab, Te’o.