He is a beloved member of the pediatric endocrinology team at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center as well as a practicing and popular general pediatrician. “I think of my patients with diabetes as healthy kids just like the healthy kids in my general practice," said Barney Softness, MD, who takes care of children with type 1 diabetes at the Berrie Center.
Dr. Softness continued: “What’s remarkable about diabetes is that it’s a really intense condition and it takes treatment and intense follow up—but we can essentially make children healthy. One of our philosophies at the Berrie Center is, we want these kids to have normal lives. We want them to eat normally, act normally and do everything that anyone without diabetes can do.”
Dr. Softness, 58, is the author of numerous peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts, is often quoted in the New York and national media, always listed among the “Best Doctors” in the United States and New York—and perhaps, most remarkably, he may not have an online review that’s received less than four stars. Last week, Dr. Softness reflected on his work with kids with type 1 diabetes.
To what do you attribute your popularity as a pediatric endocrinologist?
I’m a fairly collaborative person. My style is more to work with people, instead of dictating to them what to do. There are so many different ways that families cope with the stresses of diabetes—I don’t think there’s any one right way to do almost anything. I try to offer the ability to incorporate a family’s “style” into a productive and successful management solution for their diabetes. In the same way, the team approach at the Berrie Center allows us to deliver the best diabetes care possible. I could not do nearly as good of a job without the great clinical support available here.
How has being a pediatric endocrinologist changed since you finished your training in 1983?
There have been vast and incredible technological changes in treating type 1 diabetes. When I first started out, you couldn’t get blood sugars from your fingertips. Then came the early finger-stick blood testing and it was difficult and time consuming. I know this is a small comfort to kids who have diabetes, but it is so much better now than ever before. Insulins are better and insulin pumps are better. We even have machines that can do continuous blood sugar monitoring.
Thanks to the efforts of many people, we continue to do a much better job of taking care of diabetic children so they won’t be plagued by some of the medical complications of diabetes. People being diagnosed today have a much better chance of living long happy lives.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Taking care of adolescents with diabetes, because until then, they just do what their parents tell them to do. Usually. But when that burgeoning independence comes to a head, it can get difficult. And certainly, their diabetes gets moved down the priority list. Many times I have to say to parents, ‘I know you are having a rough time. It will get better.’”
Finally, I have to ask you about your name. Did young Barney Softness grow up wanting to be a doctor?
I grew up being more interested in biology and research. I fell in love with children late in medical school. I get along with kids. I can talk to them. I enjoy being with them.
And the name Softness?
First of all, it really is my name. I must say that it has worked for me; kids either like my first name or my last name. It’s a hook.
Click here to support the work of Dr. Softness and his colleagues at the Berrie Center.