I hadn’t even had the baby yet, and I was already an anxious first-time mother. I researched local pediatricians, crowd-sourced social media for recommendations, and even scheduled a face-to-face interview before I had the first Braxton-Hicks contraction. The work was worth it: even at that first clinic visit when my oldest was only three days old, I adored and appreciated the exceptional Dr. Michael Coogan.
I wanted so badly to be a practical, common-sense mom, but I was a frazzled mess. To make matters worse, the second his diaper was removed, my baby, Carson, urinated all over Dr. Coogan’s pants. I was mortified. Dr. Coogan wasn’t. He dryly rolled his eyes and sarcastically deadpanned, “Well, that’s the first time that’s ever happened.” This humorous reaction was precisely what I needed to chill out, and my expert pediatrician knew it.
At the same appointment, my son started crying, sending me and my mother in desperate search for a pacifier. Seeing our alarm, he once again intervened with reassurance: “Hey, folks. Babies cry.” So simple but so necessary, especially as a new mother to Carson, whom the doctor only ever affectionately referred to as “Kit Carson the Cowboy.”
In every discussion I ever had with Dr. Coogan, he was professional, direct, respectful, and pragmatic. In a time of social media judgment and shaming, getting his timeless and sensible advice was crucial. He shaped me and my husband into the parents we are over years of sound guidance. Though he sadly passed away last September, he has left a tremendous legacy in the Baton Rouge area. Here are just a few of the Dr. Coogan’isms I recall and the indelible effects they had.
“Hungry Kids Eat”
When I asked him about our kids’ diet and growing pickiness, particularly about vegetables, Dr. Coogan told me, “Hungry kids eat.” He elaborated that I should continue to give healthy options rather than catering to a toddler’s wishes because it would only encourage more pickiness. When I further questioned about the possibility of the kids not eating what we fix and whether or not we should be concerned with their hunger, he would cheekily remark that they’re not that hungry, then. It sounds obvious, and it is. But sometimes we need an outsider’s perspective to remind us of what we already know and that we shouldn’t empower kids to make decisions, especially when it comes to their health.
“Don’t snack ’em to death”
As a continuation of his focus on health, Dr. Coogan joked that “schools nowadays” think kids are entitled to Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic, and two snacks a day. He challenged the convention that every activity or event requires a snack. As a result, we don’t do mini-meals between meals around here. Or juice. “There’s no need for juice. It’s mainly sugar.” I didn’t realize we could opt out of superfluous snacks and sugary drinks. It was so reassuring to hear from an expert that we could make these decisions, confident that we were doing what’s best for our kids.
“Can I show you a presentation after the appointment?”
Like many concerned mothers, I had tremendous anxiety about vaccinations and their potential links to other issues. When I expressed this concern to him, he didn’t admonish or mock me. Instead, at the end of a very long day, he asked if I could wait for him to finish his last appointment with another patient so that he could show me the same presentation and research that he shared with pediatric residents. Since then, I have advocated that parents communicate directly with doctors about their children’s health concerns.
“Just text me”
I was always so impressed by how tech-savvy Dr. Coogan was. He saw technology and communication as ways to improve his practice and the health of his patients. If I ever had a concern about a rash, he’d advise me to text him a pic. He would often send in my kids’ prescriptions using an app before he ever left the room. He made himself approachable, demonstrating his commitment to children’s health. I never felt like my questions were too petty to address.
“You did a very good job!”
Dr. Coogan wasn’t merely interested in treating a child’s physiology but also modeled and expected appropriate social behavior. He started and ended every appointment by addressing our children, who can sometimes go overlooked when adults have conversations. He insisted on bending down, making eye contact, and shaking hands. Since he first demonstrated that social behavior can and should be part of a well-rounded child’s upbringing, I have held my children to this standard.
And, God bless him, whether it was true or not, Dr. Coogan always told each child, “You did a very good job.”
For the legacy he left behind, the same can be said of him.