PFCC Star of the Month: Dr. June Ortenberg, Pediatrician

Martine Laflamme, September’s PFCC Star of the Month, was very happy to nominate Dr. June Ortenberg for this month’s award. “Dr. Ortenberg is someone who takes very special care of every child and family she sees at the Children’s. She always has a gentle and thoughtful approach and gives everyone her full attention and dedication. I feel like I’ve known her forever and I have such respect for her. She’s a pediatrician who is a true model of professionalism.”

Dr. Ortenberg was surprised and touched when Martine presented her with the award. “Patient and family-centered care is the essence of what we do at the Children’s so to be recognized for it is an honour,” she says. Dr. Ortenberg says that the idea of PFCC is a principle that helped determine her path. “From the time I was young, I had two great but different interests – fine arts and children,” she says. “I always knew I wanted to work with kids though, so in the end, medicine won out.”

Treating the child’s global needs

After studying at McGill, Dr. Ortenberg completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s, then spent a year at Hôpital Ste-Justine in genetics, where she first learned about neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition affecting 1 in 3,000 people. “Neurofibromatosis can have multiple effects on the system since it touches the cells of the nervous system, which supply and direct the entire body,” says Dr. Ortenberg.  “So an integrative, whole person approach is particularly important for these patients.”

When Dr. Ortenberg moved over to the Children’s she took on a dual appointment in General Pediatrics and Genetics, where she started the neurofibromatosis clinic. “I decided it was a cause to take on so along with the medical genetics counsellor, I helped to spearhead the founding of L’association de neurofibramatose du Québec (ANFQ) which continues to do great work to this day.” Many of Dr. Ortenberg’s neurofibromatosis patients have grown up with her, and she now sees some of their children for the same condition. Dr. Ortenberg has always been interested in treating children with more complex medical problems, whether in terms of physical or mental development. “I’ve always found that to be really rewarding, and it’s one of the reasons I started the neurofibromatosis clinic. It’s a goal of mine to meet the child’s global needs,” she says.

Promoting PFCC to the next generation

Within the Division of General Pediatrics, Dr. Ortenberg has worked in both inpatient and outpatient care. She currently works in the Pediatric Consultation Clinic (PCC), the Asthma Clinic, the Pre-op clinic and the Day Hospital, and she recently became director of the spina bifida clinic, replacing Dr. Patricia Forbes, one of her “great mentors” who retired this past year. One of her favourite roles at the Children's is to teach future healthcare professionals at the patient’s bedside. “My colleagues and I have the special opportunity every day to promote the value of PFCC to the next generation,” she says. “We’re really lucky to have the chance to do it.”

In terms of the many other people she works with, her praise is heartfelt. “The Children’s has such magnificent spirit. Everyone feels strongly about their role and the contribution they can make, no matter what their job is,” she says. “There are fundamental reasons people choose to work in a pediatric institution. It’s a common bond that always guides us.”