In the past year we recently switched our family to a new pediatrics practice that is closer to where we live. In many ways it is ideal--close by, AP-friendly (for a pediatrics practice), friendly staff, great hours, their willingness to work with us on an alternative vax schedule. There are 4 pediatricians at this practice: 3 female, 1 male. We happened to get put with the male doctor on our first visit and have since stayed with him to keep our children's care consistent. However, we have noticed some red flags popping up at our visits.
Before I discuss what exact things are bothering me, please be forewarned that there probably will be some stereotyping here (I personally believe that stereotyping may be a good protective mechanism). On all of these points I can find reasons beyond pedophilia, but it's so hard to know what the truth is. We also have the complication that we love this practice as a whole and worked very hard finding one that would accommodate us in our selective/delayed vaccination schedule. Of all the physicians at this practice, the one we are using is the most lenient and understanding in this regard. However, my children's health and well-being take precedence over any feelings of loyalty we have.
I've been reading up on pedophilia and have learned a lot. What I've learned is this: Pedophilia, like heterosexuality or homosexuality, is an orientation, albeit an anti-social one. It is incurable. Also, a pedophile can be oriented one way in regard to adults and also be differently oriented toward children (and by that I mean that you can be homosexual as an adult male and as a pedophile be into 8-year-old girls). Psychologists believe that something goes wrong neurologically during critical points of a child's development that cause him to orient in this way. Pedophiles are almost always middle-aged men. Often times they are people you'd never expect--leaders in the community, scout leaders, coaches, teachers, youth pastors, or professionals. They usually choose occupations or hobbies that put them in close, regular contact with children--you know, like pediatrics. They tend to have huge caches of child pornography in their possession. People are usually shocked if the pedophile is ever discovered, and tend to react with statements like, "But he was just the friendliest person!". They are good at knowing how to manipulate people's feelings of trust so that they let their guards down. Pedophiles rationalize what they do in ways that prevent them from seeing it as "wrong." They tend to refer to children in supra-human terms like angels, innocent, heavenly, divine, etc. I mention all of this so that as you read my list below you can keep these characteristics in mind.
Here is what I know of our pediatrician, which is based upon the introduction on our practice's website for when he joined the practice, as well as from his FB page (which I totally stalked), and from conversations:
1) He's an actively-partnered homosexual, around age 50
2) He has a daughter (I don't know if this is a biological daughter or an adopted daughter)
3) He's eccentric (e.g., he likes vintage clothing) and has some unusual hobbies (like he and his partner are BIG into beauty pageants. Our dr. even acts as judge on the Miss America circuit. Both of them attended the Miss America pageant this year and had their pictures taken with former Miss Americas. I have to admit that I find this odd.)
4) He attended the same medical school as a pediatrician who was arrested a few years back for 400+ counts of sexual assault on minors in his pediatrics office. Our pediatrician graduated from that same medical school 5 years after the arrested pediatrician graduated, so they probably never had contact, but knowing this still doesn't alleviate my worries that there was some sort of contact through professional conferences or alumni association meetings or something.
So, that's the background. Here are some snippets of things that have bothered both me and my husband in our contact with him which began last summer. (Our daughter is 7 years old):
1. At our initial, introductory visit as soon as he walked into the exam room, he stopped, looked at our daughter and said repeatedly, "Wow. You are just gorgeous!". This was before he even said hello to us. It wasn't just once, but at least 3 or 4 times. Our daughter, who is very shy and modest, just sort of looked at me for help, and I made some sort of joke like, "Oh, she must take after me!" or something, to get us out of that bizarre conversational loop. After that, I didn't bring our daughter to his office for a while even though we were taking our son in for infant well-visits every few weeks.
2. A few months later I had to bring our daughter to one of our son's well-visits and while we were waiting for the dr. to come in she was singing in the exam room (she loves to sing--well, our whole family does choral singing--and our pediatrician is also big into choral singing, which is one reason we liked him). When he came in he said he had heard her singing then asked if she would sing for him, which she did. Later that same night we got a phone call and it was our pediatrician calling to thank our daughter for singing for him. He said that he couldn't get her voice out of his head that whole day and that it reminded him of why he went into pediatrics. At another appointment we found out through one of the nurses that he refers to our daughter as the "one with the voice of an angel." Initially I thought it was sweet that he called to thank her in the evening, but in retrospect I do find it strange. I asked my husband afterward if the dr. had asked to speak to our daughter specifically or if my husband had offered. The way he remembered the conversation going was that the doctor sort of hinted that he wanted to talk to our daughter with a phrase like, "I wish I could just thank your daughter for singing for me today," and then my husband put her on the phone because she happened to be nearby.
3. At another visit, the dr. went to examine our daughter and she was acting very shyly and his response was, said in a laughing sort of way, "I would never hurt you, honey." At the time I thought that was a strange thing to say because no one said anything about the idea of being afraid of being hurt. Most doctors we've seen just sort of try and do a few ice-breakers to get our daughter to loosen up or else they just do their best to examine her and are direct in asking her to do the things they need her to do, like relax her jaw muscles or breathe deeply, etc. I mentally noted that it was strange the way that he brought up the idea of being "hurt." Also, sometimes children do get hurt at the dr.'s office--like shots. It's untruthful to say that she would never get hurt there. Most doctors are acutely aware of this.
4. At another appointment he asked if he could record our daughter singing on his personal I-phone. My husband and I kind of looked at each other in bewilderment but felt guilty if we didn't say yes so we agreed. She sang two songs which he recorded on his personal phone.
5. He deliberately touched her hair on multiple occasions. I noticed this at the same appointment that is mentioned in point #4. I saw him deliberately stroke her ponytail not once but twice during the visit--not back-to-back either but spread out. I mentioned this to my husband afterward because it bothered me at the time. We went to an appointment just last week and while our daughter was being weighed on the scale by the nurse our dr. walked by in the hallway, reached out, and stroked her ponytail before continuing walking down the hall.
6. In at least 75% of the visits we've had with our pediatrician he has talked about how absolutely beautiful our daughter is, and he seems very interested in her current hobbies and infancy, even though most of our visits are well-visits for our son. He doesn't ask in ways that seem very out-of-place but he does ask leading questions that encourage us to talk about her. At the same time I also love talking about her so I very well may have just taken off when asked a few questions. In retrospect it is difficult to remember.
7. He has a YouTube account that I accidentally stumbled upon while Google searching for his email address in order to send him an email. I happened to notice his favorites playlist, which he has set for public viewing (there is a private option), and it listed a handful of random videos, one of which is pretty clearly homosexual erotica. We are a very openly anti-porn family, but even laying ethics aside I find this odd for someone in a public profession like pediatric medicine since he is easily searchable on the internet (he has a very unusual last name) and has a professional image to keep up.
8. Just yesterday we had a visit for our daughter because she had gotten slightly injured, and after the initial conversation which was started off again by, "Wow. You are just beautiful!," I noticed that he made more eye contact with her than with me for much of the visit. I noticed because she kept looking at me because she felt awkward. He also would occasionally poke her knee in a teasing sort of way. Also, our initial conversation started off by discussing YouTube and I happened to mention as a way to segway into talking about our daughter and her injury that she had helped me make a YouTube video recently. He then wanted to know all about it, even though it was an instructional video for how to put a child's hair into a bun for ballet. He then proceeded to ask how he could find it on YouTube. That definitely gave off a "weird" vibe to me--what does a middle-aged man need to know about doing a ballet bun? To me, the common social response would be something along the lines of expressing polite but shallow interest (because it makes no sense for him to want to know the details) and then moving on to the examination. This was the response I expected. When I mentioned the video to begin with I only did so out of polite chit-chat. I had no idea he'd want to see it. Needless to say I have since restricted access to this video until I decide what to do. We also talked about an upcoming recital that my daughter has and he said he wanted us to video it so he could see it later.
9. At a previous visit our daughter talked about how she loves to do ballet and how she is going to be in the Nutcracker next winter. The doctor's response was, "Oh, I am going to be on the front row!" Maybe this was just a way of showing enthusiasm but still, it's odd. Most people would say something like, "Oh, wow. How fun!" and move on. It's odd that he would act like he was going to see it.
Re-reading all of these I can think of some benign possibilities along with sinister ones. What if he is just a gay fellow who appreciates physical female beauty in a platonic way? What if he is just socially awkward? What if he is just very touchy-feely but in a non-sexual way? What if he just really appreciates talent in children?
So, now that you know my situation, what are your thoughts? Should we switch our daughter to a different pediatrician within the practice? Leave the practice altogether? Do you think I'm being paranoid and that this guy is probably a little odd but fine? I don't know. My gut instinct, which I trust, says that we need to be on our guard, that there is something amiss. It bothers me that, being a physician, so much of our family's information (like our address and phone number) is easily accessible for him.
The hard part is that besides this (and I know this sounds strange putting this big metaphorical “but” in here) I actually like this doctor. He shares many of our family’s personal interests, like choral music and natural medicine. He knows all about MDC and kellymom. He is hesitant about vaccines and agrees easily to our alternative vax schedule. He likes Dr. Sears. I don’t know. If it weren’t for this weirdness, I would truly love him. And, he’s one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.