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Star of TLC's 'The Little Couple,' now a doc at All Children's in St. Pete, shares how she thinks bi

Monday, October 16, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Star of TLC's 'The Little Couple,' now a doc at All Children's in St. Pete, shares how she thinks big in life and medicine


By  –  Finance Editor, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Dr. Jennifer Arnold, star of TLC’s “The Little Couple” reality TV show and a neonatologist at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, knew she would have lifelong obstacles to overcome after she was diagnosed as a child with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, a genetic mutation that led to her shortened growth.

Arnold, named medical director of the simulation center at Johns Hopkins All Children’s earlier this year, overcame those obstacles by learning to “think big,” she told several hundred people gathered for BioFlorida’s annual conference at The Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg.

“Think Big” also is the name of a book co-authored by Arnold and her husband, Bill Klein, and each letter in the book’s title also is the first letter in a goal she strives for, she said.

T is for try

She had 30 surgeries as a child, including one just before a friend held at party at Disney World. Despite being in a cast, her parents encouraged her to attend.

“Sometimes it may seem impossible but if you just give it a try, you might be able to do it and you might have a lot of fun doing it,” she said.

H is for hope

As a child, Arnold struggled to understand why she was different from her friends, and for a time she didn’t believe she was really a little person; she thought her parents were simply trying to teach her a lesson about seeing the world through a different perspective.

“A crazy hope, right?” she said. “That hope was so important because it helped me get through a difficult time. ...Some hopes may be realistic, some maybe not ... but hang onto those hopes because they help get through difficult times.”

I is for initiate

Taking the first step is key, she said, recalling how she struggled to get into medical school. She applied at 30 schools, but only was asked to interview at two of them, including Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, her alma mater. She was nervous but excited.

“There may be things in your life where you are afraid to take that first step. Don’t be afraid, because there’s probably good things waiting for you on the other side,” she said.

N is for never listen to 'no'

During the interviews for medical school, some doctors asked her how she got around campus and saw patients. While both schools accepted her, she chose Johns Hopkins because physicians there had 100 percent confidence in her.

“When it may seem impossible but you know it’s the right thing to do, never listen to the no's,” she said.

K is for know your capabilities

“We all have limitations,” she said. Self-awareness is vital for everyone, including physicians.

“In health care in general we don’t really promote humility,” she said. “However, what I have learned in my career and as a patient, probably more so as a patient, is the best healers are those that are humble.”

B is for believe

Arnold wasn’t sure she would ever find a spouse until she went on an online dating site for little people. When they finally met, it was love at first sight, she said.

“Keep believing in something. There are some things that no matter how hard you work at it or try, you may not make it happen. You can’t make true love happen ... but it’s only going to happen if you never stop believing it’s possible,” Arnold said.

I is for improve

Once someone gets to their goal, they have to constantly improve. That’s why she likes simulation — it’s all about constant improvement.

“When I bring doctors and nurses and other providers into a mock environment, put them through a stressful situation, they get to work through that crisis and work together as a team, then they get feedback to help them improve their coordination as a team,” she said.

G is for go for it

Arnold was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, just after adopting her second child. Despite all medical obstacles she had overcome, she said it was the first time in her life she was afraid.

“What cancer taught me is that you never know what life is going to throw in your path. You never know what’s going to be around the next corner. It may not be something good. For that reason, sometimes we just have to go for the things we want in life, because — no pun intended — life is short, and we need to make the most of it,” Arnold said.

The BioFlorida conference started Monday morning and will continue through Tuesday afternoon.

About BioFlorida

BioFlorida represents 6,200 establishments and research organizations in the biopharmaceuticals, medical technology, healthIT and bioagriculture sectors that collectively employ 87,000 Floridians.


Members of the BioFlorida network include emerging and established life science companies, universities, research institutions, hospitals, medical centers, incubators, economic development agencies, investors and service providers.


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