Best Of Chapel Hill
Dr. Gush performs routine checkups on Jason Budda, 10, and Abee Budda, 6.
[her job] with five children, I certainly could do this with one child!” So in 1995, Kim left South Florida, where she had earned her bachelor’s in biology and microbiology from Florida Atlantic University. She had been the first in her family to go to college, and then, at 35, with her 5-yearold daughter, Sara, in tow, she entered medical school at UNC. By 2002, Kim had a second daughter, Savanna, and completed a medical degree plus a Ph.D. with a dissertation on hematopoietic stem cell development and gene therapy. Four years later, Kim finished her pediatric residency at UNC Children’s Hospital, won a Kaiser Permanente Excellence in Teaching award from the UNC School of Medicine and opened Village Pediatrics of Chapel Hill in Southern Village. Inside the clinic, the walls are lined with ceramic tiles hand-decorated by young patients. Every exam room is decorated in a different theme – one with a large colorful world map, one with a serene tropical beach scene and another with a family of giraffes. When Kim walks through the door, she takes her time to listen and to be fully present for every patient. 66
BE KIND IN ALL YOU DO – BOTH TO YOURSELF AND TO OTHERS.”
“There are lots of good doctors,” Kim says. “Technically, you can be a good doctor, but not everybody is a good person, right? We can teach you how to do the job, but we can’t teach you how to be a nice person.” Kim says every person on her staff is selected based on merit and compassion. “We are very patient-centered, family-centered in our approach to care,” she says about the clinic that serves 3,000 patients. “We accept all patients regardless of their insurance type or if they’re self-pay. We also accept people who vaccinate and people who don’t vaccinate. Not every practice will do that, which I think is unfortunate because everybody deserves care. Our mission is – whether you are a patient, a visitor or a staff member – [for] everyone who comes through the door [to] feel welcome.” Since establishing her practice 16 years ago, Kim has preferred straightforward patient communication. “We answer the phones directly,” she says. “There’s no voice tree trying to get through to find the right person to talk to.” And though she no longer does house calls, the clinic does keep Saturday morning hours. “We actually used to have even more extended hours, but COVID-19 has changed a lot of things,” Kim says. “The demand just hasn’t been there. Things have really shifted with the pandemic. And I think one of the things is maybe parents aren’t working as much, or they’re working from home so they’re more flexible in their hours. There just hasn’t been a high demand after 5 p.m.” The longevity of her practice has allowed her to see patients grow up and return to the clinic with kids of their own. And, there are patients who have an extra special place in Kim’s heart. “I think I have a huge affinity for neurodiverse populations,” Kim says. “Kids with autism. Kids with ADHD. Kids struggling with behavioral mental health challenges, especially through the pandemic. I have a couple of patients now in their early 20s, kids with autism, who have grown up in the practice. I enjoy taking care of them and their families and helping to guide decisions and things like that. I try to make myself available to them and then leave a lot of flexibility in my schedule in order to get people in urgently, if needed. And, it’s very rewarding watching them grow up into productive adults.” Today, Kim thinks of her own daughters who are 32 and 23, respectively. Her older daughter, who lives in Savannah, Georgia, was ordained as a minister in May by the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist, and the younger is a student at NC State. Kim shares the advice she was given: Be kind in all you do – both to yourself and to others. And, follow your dreams.