Your Health Today Magazine

Making a Transition from Pediatrician to Family Physician

mother helping child walk

Julianna Becton plays with son Ari - both are patients of Dr. Otto.

"Establishing a patient/physician relationship early on really makes a difference." Andrea Otto, M.D.

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Sooner or later, all pediatric patients will become uncomfortable in a waiting room filled with children and outgrow the practice. So when should parents transition their children from their childhood doctor to an internal medicine or family medicine physician?

“The short answer is, anytime,” said Andrea Otto, M.D., a family medicine specialist with St. Anthony's at Kirkwood Family Medicine.

While many pediatric patients transition between the ages of 11 and 16, Dr. Otto encourages some patients to consider staying with their pediatricians longer, especially if they have complex medical issues or significant developmental delays. When they do transition, it's important to allow sufficient time for the child to get to know the new doctor.

“Establishing a patient/physician relationship early on really makes a difference,” Dr. Otto said. “The last thing you want is an adolescent patient who doesn't feel comfortable talking to his or her physician about typical teenage issues.”

Some families avoid the pediatric transition altogether by opting to see the same physician, a family medicine specialist such as Dr. Otto, who sees patients of all ages. Pediatricians and family medicine physicians undergo the same medical school training. During their three-year residencies, pediatricians focus on pediatric patients, while family medicine specialists focus on the entire life spectrum.

“Pediatricians have additional specific training to take on very complex pediatric issues” Dr. Otto said. “But for children with the ordinary childhood concerns such as routine checkups, rashes and ear infections, don't overlook family medicine physicians, I think there is the opportunity to get more well-rounded medical care when the physician knows and treats the whole family.”

Ira Becton of Webster Groves has been seeing Dr. Otto for two years. His wife of five years, Julianna, has been a patient of Dr. Otto for one year; and their son, Ari, became a patient after he was born 18 months ago.

“The entire staff at Kirkwood knows us,” said Ira, 41, a talent acquisition manager for a local advertising company. “Not only is it convenient, it almost hearkens back to the days of the family doctor visiting your home.

“Ari is multi-racial, and there are certain things from a genetic standpoint that we need to be aware of,” Ira Becton added. “Dr. Otto is very thorough and understanding of each stage of Ari's life: she helps us to understand what we need to do as parents, not just from an acute sickness point of view but from a prevention and an education standpoint.”

“It was such an easy fit: my husband was looking for a primary care doctor, and found Dr. Otto,” said Julianna, 35, an information technology analyst for a local university. “She's just so warm and friendly, and the office environment is very calm: I like places that are quieter and have less of a wait time. Ari hasn't had any abnormal medical issues, but I am confident if something were to arise, Dr. Otto would arm us with the information we would need to address these concerns.”

Physician Snapshot


Andrea Otto, M.D., Family Medicine

INSPIRATION: Hometown doctor, Jerry Jumper, who delivered Dr. Otto and most of her siblings. “Every time you walked in the door, he'd be there, smiling and ready to take care of any problem you might have. That played a big part in motivating me to pursue a career in medicine, particularly family medicine.”


Served as a physician with the U.S. Army for seven years, from obstetrics and labor and delivery to the ICU and emergency medicine. Served five years at Fort Leonard Wood.

Board-certified Family Medicine physician with St. Anthony's Kirkwood Family Medicine

AGE: 35

BIRTHPLACE: Sabetha, Kansas, pop. 2,500

HOMETOWN: Fenton, Missouri

FAMILY: Husband, Randall, and three young children