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Debra Matityahu, MD, is a board certified Ob/Gyn with the Permanente Medical Group in Redwood City. Born in New Jersey, she attended Cornell University and the New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Matiyahu also volunteers at a Kenyan clinic treating women who've been shunned because of obstetric fistulas. She and her teenage daughter founded a nonprofit organization, A Little For A Lot, to help rehabilitate these poverty-stricken women, enabling them to return to school or receive vocational training so they can be financially independent in the future. Dr. Matityahu lives in Los Altos with husband Amir, an orthopaedic traumatology physician at San Francisco General Hospital, and their children Arielle and Jacob.
When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?
I knew I wanted to be a doctor from the time I was in second grade. My sister's best friend's mom died of leukemia, and I announced to my family that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up so that I could cure leukemia and then my sister's friend's mom would not have had to die. From that time on, I always had it in my head that I would be a doctor.
What do you think you might have done instead if you hadn’t chose medicine?
If I hadn't gotten into medical school, I was planning to do biomedical research. I was intent on helping people and curing illness.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first became a doctor?
That being a doctor is not about making the big saves and solving the obscure medical dilemmas; it's about the day-to-day caring and compassion you can give to another person.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
Oh, so many things! I hate to cook, clean or shop. At work, I am patient and a great listener. On the tennis court, I am fiercely competitive and love to banter.
What is, in your view, the biggest challenge facing physicians/healthcare today?
Time constraints. We are pulled in so many directions. One thing that drew many of us to the medical field- caring for patients and giving them our time, is being sucked away from us. The patient suffers and we suffer. It's causing physician burnout and patients don't feel cared for.
Who are your heroes?
I have a nonprofit in Kenya, teaching vocational skills and offering school scholarships to obstetric fistula survivors. I wish I had the time, energy and connections to grow the organization to help more women. My heros are those who are able to tap into resources to help others.
What is your dream vacation?
I already took my first dream vacation--that was to travel around the world for 10 months with my husband, son and daughter in 2010-11. Thanks to Kaiser for giving me a leave of absence for this! My next dream vacation will be to travel back to Kenya for an extended period of time to work with the local staff of my nonprofit and help grow the organization.
Why are you a member of SMCMA?
I'm a member because SMCMA works to protect physicians' interests so physicians can focus on why they went into medicine in the first place--caring for their patients.