SMHS Faculty Spotlight
SMHS Faculty Spotlight
CFE (Center for Faculty Excellence)

GW School of Medicine & Health Sciences Center for Faculty Excellence 

June 2023 Faculty Spotlight Series
Excellence in teaching & learning, scholarly endeavors, and leadership are all around us at GW. The Center for Faculty Excellence would like to Spotlight our faculty’s contributions. In honor of the upcoming Clara Bliss Hinds Society Annual Event, we will be highlighting the three speakers for the event. Our speakers bring leadership perspectives across the Academic Medical Enterprise. We want to thank our highlighted faculty members for sharing with us their advice and perspectives!
- SMHS Center for Faculty Excellence
Dr. Anisha Abraham
Join the CFE as we highlight Anisha Abraham, MD, MPH, who discusses her global career journey and current roles as Chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and Director of the Donald Delaney Eating Disorders Clinic. Dr. Abraham also speaks about prevalent issues facing the health and wellness of young people and her Division's continued partnerships with the broader community to navigate these challenges. 


Anisha Abraham, MD, MPH, is a board-certified pediatrician, adolescent medicine specialist and Chief of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine. Over the last 25 years, she has held a variety of clinical, teaching, public health and leadership roles including serving as Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Georgetown University Hospital and a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. Dr. Abraham has a passion for education and is the recipient of several faculty teaching awards. Dr. Abraham’s clinical interests include addressing eating disorders, preventing obesity, and supporting cross-cultural youth. She has published her research in multiple peer-reviewed journals including Pediatrics and the Journal of Adolescent Medicine. She is also a Tedx speaker, the author of the book Raising Global Teens: Parenting in the 21st Century, and a health contributor to media outlets including CNN, NPR, Fox News, and the Washington Post.

Dr. Abraham completed her medical training at a six-year MD/BA Program at Boston University, a pediatric residency at Walter Reed Hospital, an Adolescent Medicine fellowship at Children’s National and an MPH at George Washington University. Prior to joining Children’s National in January 2021, Dr. Abraham spent 10 years living in Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Dr. Abraham was on faculty at the School of Public Health at Chinese University where she helped bring public health teams to developing countries. She also was on faculty at the University of Amsterdam and served as an adolescent health consultant to international schools and organizations.

Dr. Abraham is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at George Washington University. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the International Association of Adolescent Health and a board member of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

Interview Q/A

How long have you been at GW SMHS/Children's National Medical Center? What drew you to this current position?
Anisha: I joined the GW faculty 2 ½ years ago. The GW community has always inspired me. In fact, I completed my fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at Children’s National Hospital and received a Master's in Public Health from GW 24 years ago. It feels wonderful to return to my academic home and to lead a division alongside the incredible colleagues and mentors that helped train me.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in pediatrics and adolescent medicine?

Anisha:  In medical school, I enjoyed pediatrics, gynecology, and psychiatry. Adolescent medicine (the care of individuals ages 12-22) is an incredible mix of all these disciplines. For me, adolescence is also an exciting time of transformation where a young person is developing their physical, gender/sexual, and cultural identity. What many people may not know is that adolescent health impacts adult health. In fact, 70% of premature adult deaths reflect behaviors that started during the teen years, such as depression, substance use, and obesity. Evidence-based investments in teen development, screening, and counseling can make such a difference. As a pediatric resident, I found it fascinating that if you connect with a young person, and get them to openly discuss their strengths, personal goals, and risk behaviors, it will go a long way in helping them to build resilience, to be healthy, and to thrive. Although the work is challenging, I have not regretted my decision to pursue a career in this field.
What is the best career advice you received?

Anisha: The best advice I ever received was from my mentor, Dr. Miriam Toporowitz, when I was considering a move to Hong Kong after years of practicing in the US. She told me, “Life is not a ladder but a jungle gym with many different ways to the top.” Bottom line: there isn't a linear path in academia and medicine, but multiple paths toward success. I tell trainees that it is very important to be open to new opportunities, to be creative in aligning your work and personal interests, and to always be ready to step outside of your comfort zone.
What does a typical day look like for you?

Anisha: As Division Chief, Fellowship Director, and a Clinician-Educator, my schedule varies greatly. This week, I am the attending covering our inpatient team. A typical day may start with a check-in with our adolescent medicine providers via Zoom, followed by meetings with our finance or administrative teams, and then heading to one of the community clinic sites to see patients for routine physicals and urgent care, plus precept residents and medical students. As a media spokesperson on adolescent health for the American Academy of Pediatrics and for the hospital, I may do a quick interview for a local station or paper. I try to take time for personal wellness as well and get an early run, workout, or yoga class in. Also, I connect with my husband and two teen boys for meals or a walk with our dog. I must admit it’s not easy to get it all in, and some days are more balanced than others!
What do you enjoy about your current role?

Anisha: I am very grateful to be working with a highly committed team of physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, nutritionists, and social workers in the Goldberg Center who are passionate about improving the care of children and teens in the DC community, especially those that are underserved. It’s wonderful to be part of an extended “family” in adolescent medicine.
What are your major goals for the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine in the upcoming academic year?

Anisha: I joined my Division during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of our providers and staff were affected by severe burnout. We also saw patients with record-high rates of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Overall, my goals have been to provide comprehensive care to our teens, build our inpatient and outpatient team to meet our patient's needs, and continue to train a new generation of providers. Also, to increase engagement in our community, to build philanthropic support for the important work we do, and to foster connectedness and well-being among our Division. The pandemic was not easy for our division or our patients, but I am proud that we have been resilient, and are making inroads on many of these goals.
What are some of the major medical and/or public health challenges facing adolescents today?

Anisha: The COVID-19 pandemic has created the “perfect storm” for mental health-related concerns among adolescents. In fact, a study by the CDC in April 2022 reported that nearly half of all teens felt persistently sad or hopeless the prior year. In addition, to teens with depression and anxiety, we have had a doubling in the number of eating disorders among young people. Other big issues across the country include navigating social media use, ensuring resources for LGBTQ+ teens, and providing access to sexual and reproductive health care. Finally, in our local community, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of youths who come in with issues related to opioid use and firearm violence. In response, we have been trying to develop standardized and evidence-based approaches.
What can medical education do to better address some of these challenges?

Anisha: Self-confidence and self-esteem are developed in the early teen years. Building on our unique strengths, whether it is the arts, music, or sports can be very protective for teens, especially when they are struggling. In our adolescent clinic, we use a strength-based approach, starting with strengths, asking about home, education, diet, drugs, sexuality, and suicidality with our patients. Exposing trainees early on to adolescent health care and best practices for confidential screening and counseling, along with understanding the broader determinants of health that affect teens (such as food insecurity), are an important part of addressing these challenges. 
You’re one of the speakers for the June Clara Bliss Hinds Society Annual Event focused on leadership in academic medicine. Can you tell us a little about what support (programs, mentoring) helped you throughout your career to develop leadership skills?

Anisha: Early on in my professional life, I was encouraged to have mentors both within my field and outside of my field. Having a variety of mentors has served me well with every major transition or role I have had. Additionally, having roles in professional organizations has helped to develop important leadership skills. For example, I am on the board of the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine and have been part of the organization for 25 years. I have also participated in leadership development through professional organizations such as the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) and have found them to be very insightful. The AMWA offers training in leadership development for individuals in the early, middle, and late career stages, which I highly recommend. 
What impact do you hope you have on students, faculty, SMHS, science and/or patients in general?

Anisha: For my teen patients, I hope I can help them to develop resilience and be healthy adults. One of the biggest predictors of success is not having the top grades, attending the best university, or having the most prestigious job, but the ability to get back on your feet after experiencing a challenge. This concept is what we call ‘having a bounce.’ There is a lot that I know we can do to help adolescents by encouraging them to problem-solve, confronting difficulties head-on, and building on their unique skills and abilities. For students and faculty, I hope I can model the importance of self-care and reconnecting with your interests outside of work. I have had a tremendous interest in media work, and recently co-produced a short film called One Small Visit,” a story based on my parent's immigration experience. The movie has had a lot of success and was on the shortlist for the Oscars this year. Bringing art and creativity back into my daily life through my involvement in this film has given me a lot of joy. Especially as faculty members and providers, we should all be reconnecting with the things we are passionate about.
How does this spotlight/recognition make you feel?

Anisha: It is humbling to be recognized and an honor to be interviewed. I feel that as a woman of color and a provider of adolescent medicine, we do not always have a voice, so being able to use this platform is a privilege. 
What are some things that keep you motivated during the day?

Anisha: Working with young people, and having two teenage boys of my own, gives me hope every day. I see a whole generation of young people who have so much creativity, vision, passion, and initiative to tackle big global issues like climate change that we face. That genuinely sustains me!
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