2019 Top Doctor: Mark Ruggiero

Editorial StaffMarch 21, 2019
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Developmental Pediatrics

Med School/Year Graduated: University of Florida, 1988

Years in Practice: 21

What inspired you to pursue developmental pediatrics?

I was a general pediatrician for four years and I wanted the opportunity to spend more time with patients and delve deeper into the developmental-behavioral issues that affect children and their families. My current field allows for a more comprehensive approach.

PHOENIX ran an article last year about the dearth of developmental pediatricians in the Valley, at a time when ASD (autism spectrum disorder) rates are increasing. Why the disconnect, in your opinion?

The demand for developmental-behavioral pediatricians has increased significantly over the past 10 years, while the number of fellowship opportunities has not kept pace. Phoenix Children’s Hospital is working to accommodate the growing need in this area with a new, multi-departmental model for ASD evaluation.

Besides ASD, what do incidence trends look like for other developmental disorders?

Anxiety is increasing in pediatric populations at a rapid pace and is comorbid with many other developmental disorders. Reasons for this are multifactorial, but I can say that children today face enormous pressure from social media and media in general. Chronic anxiety has significant ramifications in terms of psychological, cognitive and physiological health.

What do you wish all parents of children with developmental challenges knew?

We all have individual strengths and weaknesses, and there is no such thing as “typical,” either for children or parents. Keep striving to improve weaknesses, but never forget to focus on strengths – especially your own.

What promising advances do you see in store for your specialty?

Innovations in genetic research are starting to reveal the underlying causes of many developmental disorders, and advances in genetic testing are improving our ability to prevent, diagnose and effectively treat them.

You are a champion of the interdisciplinary approach. How does this help your patients?

By working collaboratively, providers are better able to conceptualize and treat the whole child. When developmental specialists work together to address the relevant medical, behavioral [and] psychological issues, the benefits to the patient and their family are exponential. We apply this model in my private practice at the
Serin Center.

You graduated from medical school at the University of Florida School of Medicine before moving to Oakland and then Portland. What food do you miss most from these cities?

Vietnamese and Thai food from the Bay Area [and] coffee and microbrews from Portland.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy skiing, hiking and traveling with my family. We have two elderly, high-maintenance dogs who require lots of attention and treats.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

My stepson told me I should be a chef after I made him dinner last night. While I do love to cook, I’d be eliminated in the first round on Top Chef.

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