Pardon the students, residents and faculty if there were a few double takes recently as they strode through the halls of Children’s Mercy Kansas City, a UMKC School of Medicine affiliate hospital. After all, it’s not every day that a highly recognizable television personality gives a Grand Rounds lecture. Even at one of the country’s top children’s hospitals.
Then, again, Jennifer Arnold, M.D., is not just one of the stars of the television series, The Little Couple, on the TLC TV network. She’s also a neonatologist and medical director of the pediatric simulation center for the largest neonatal intensive care unit in the United States. And belying her 3-foot, 2-inch physical stature, Arnold delivered a big message in conjunction with National Disability Month.
A motivational speaker in addition to her roles at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Arnold encouraged her audience to think big in order to make a difference, achieve their goals, to improve health care, and ultimately, for the sake of their patients.
Arnold’s own life has been a lesson in perseverance. Born with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, a rare genetic disorder that causes skeletal anomalies and short stature, Arnold has undergone more than 30 surgeries just to stand, walk and breathe more easily.
When questioned about her ability to succeed as a physician, she disproved the naysayers by earning a medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completing residency at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
UMKC School of Medicine Dean Steven Kanter, M.D., came to know Arnold and saw her in action as a pediatric resident while he was vice dean at the Pittsburgh medical school. When he learned she was coming to Children’s Mercy, Kanter reached out to offer her a special welcome.
“Dr. Arnold is a great motivator, giving a voice to those who face obstacles, physically and professionally,” Kanter said.
After overcoming much adversity in her life, Arnold would face one more major obstacle. Arnold is also a cancer survivor.
“What a great opportunity for our students, residents, faculty and staff at Children’s Mercy to hear her story of perseverance,” Kanter said. “I have enjoyed watching her remarkable grace and intelligence permeate every aspect of her life as she transformed from a pediatric resident to a respected pediatrician and well-known TV personality, and I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for her and her family.”