Thomas Richardson, MD
Thomas Richardson, MD
Attending Physician, Pediatrics
NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Sydenham
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Improving Children’s Health in Harlem
Dr. Thomas Richardson came to NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Sydenham, as a young pediatrician at a tumultuous time. It was late 2020. The two pediatricians who had staffed Sydenham for almost 30 years had retired just as the site was emerging from the pandemic that had upended the lives of the families it serves.
“Dr. Richardson was – and still is – the only full-time pediatrician at Sydenham,” says Dr. Mary McCord, Sydenham’s Interim Medical Director and Director of Pediatrics. “Not an easy situation for a first job out of residency. But Dr. Richardson did not flinch. He dedicated himself to the families and to the day-in, day-out needs of the pediatric practice. There were bumps in the road. Families were angry that the services they had been used to were different. But he saw it as an opportunity to learn.”
Nearly three years later, Dr. Richardson is the backbone of the Sydenham pediatric practice. He has quickly gained the trust of families, evidenced by the annual increases in flu and HPV vaccine acceptance and serves as the supervising physician at three of Gotham’s school-based health sites. He also started and coordinates Sydenham’s Reach Out and Read literacy support program.
Dr. Richardson grew up in suburban New Jersey with equal interest in science and the arts. He chose medicine after volunteering and shadowing at a local hospital, and he knew before finishing medical school at Rutgers that he wanted to work in a public hospital system. “Of course, our system has its challenges but there’s also a greater sense of opportunity to help others,” he says, citing not just the delivery of high-quality care but also the chance to increase patients’ health literacy and ease their stress. The key to it all, he has found, is in how doctors see the role they play in their patients’ lives.
“Maya Angelou said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ” Dr. Richardson says. “Sydenham has deepened my understanding of the importance of respect in medicine. I understand my entire role as a doctor differently now than I did three years ago. I’ve learned I am here to give advice and to build relationships but not to take over, not to solve problems for people, and not to demand things from people. I have learned that my knowledge is meaningless and powerless if people can’t feel respect emanating from every word, tone and gesture.”