When he accepted the nomination for AAP president-elect last October, Mobeen H. Rathore, M.D., FAAP, could not have predicted the chaotic and unprecedented months ahead.
As chair of the infection prevention and control committee for five hospitals in northeast Florida, Dr. Rathore has found the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to be a constant concern that will continue to demand his attention for the foreseeable future. He has been at the front lines fighting many diseases, but he has never seen a virus as commanding as this one.
“I was involved in planning for the SARS, Ebola and H1N1 epidemics, and I've never seen anything like this. Our roads and restaurants are empty here; it is surreal,” Dr. Rathore said.
Fortunately for northeast Florida, a challenge has never deterred Dr. Rathore, the chief of infectious diseases at the University of Florida (UF) and Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. As president of the AAP Florida Chapter, he led the fight for common sense gun laws and increased payments for pediatric services over the past decades. He also started his state’s first National Committee for Quality Assurance-recognized center for HIV/AIDS: the University of Florida Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Service (UF CARES).
“I cannot express how fortunate we are to have Dr. Rathore during this COVID-19 crisis. He has been available to our team every day, 24/7, for us to provide the latest information and approaches to keep our caregivers safe and to provide the latest treatment updates,” said Michael D. Aubin, FACHE, president of Wolfson Children's Hospital. “He has been a highly visible and trusted representative presenting on every media outlet we wish him to communicate, so we can get the facts to all individuals in our community.”
Path to pediatrics
Born in Pakistan, Dr. Rathore began attending a private boarding school in the Himalayan foothills when he was in the fifth grade. His mother believed he should become a doctor and, if he was going to realize that dream, Dr. Rathore knew he would become a pediatrician because of his experience as a patient.
At age 14, he became seriously ill and lapsed into a coma for three days. His nephrologist, a military doctor, showed great empathy to his parents and unknowingly put his patient on a rewarding career path.
“He was so kind and gentle to my parents, it made me subliminally decide that's what I want to do,” Dr. Rathore said. “I wanted to be able to talk to parents and families that way. He was such a great role model. That's the thing about modeling and mentoring, you really inspire others.”
After earning his medical degree from King Edward Medical College in Pakistan, he came to the United States in 1985 for his pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron. He then completed fellowships in infectious diseases at St. Louis University and Washington University.
After completing his fellowship, he joined University of Florida (UF), where one of his mentors, Gerold L. Schiebler, M.D., FAAP, urged him to get involved with the AAP state chapter. He took the advice and, through the chapter, advocated for children with chronic health care needs and their families, which led to a role as medical director for northeast Florida for the state’s program for children with chronic health conditions, and the later founding of UF CARES.
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services presented Dr. Rathore with the Rebecca Denison Award for distinguished service to the HIV community. The state of Florida, Duval County and Northeast Florida Pediatric Society also have honored his work in this area.
“I always say that I didn't choose HIV as my career focus, HIV chose me. The feeling of helping so many families and kids was so gratifying,” said Dr. Rathore, who also is associate chair of pediatrics and was founding chief of the sections of hospital pediatrics and general and academic pediatrics at the university. “This is why mentoring is so important. Dr. Schiebler saw something in me that I didn't necessarily see in myself.”
Dr. Rathore became involved with the Academy during residency, when he attended an AAP meeting in San Francisco. He was struck by the camaraderie and the determination to do what’s right for children.
After he moved to Florida, he served as chapter president from 2012-’14 and continues to serve on committees. He also is District X vice chair, representing Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Puerto Rico. He is a former member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases and founding member of the Section on International Medical Graduates.
“I do believe that he can truly bring the AAP to a different level. I say this because he truly understands how to bring people together,” said Thomas T. Chiu, M.D., M.B.A., FAAP, former chair of pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine ‒ Jacksonville. “So many residents have come to me and specifically requested if he can be their mentor because they've heard so many wonderful things about him. That is something that doesn't usually happen.”
If chosen to be president-elect, Dr. Rathore intends to advocate for firearm safety, access to care, food security and poverty alleviation by forming coalitions and working at state and federal levels. He also plans to focus on pediatrician burnout, health care access, and diversity, equity and inclusion in pediatrics.
“I believe I am the first southeast Asian pediatrician to be nominated for AAP president-elect, and that honor means something to me,” he said. “I didn't have many role models who looked like me or talked like me, and I hope to be that for other young physicians.”
When they’re not working, Dr. Rathore and his wife, Sumra, also a physician, enjoy traveling and spending time with their sons: Faheem, who is a consultant and is set to begin a new job with the U.S. State Department, and Azeem, a third-year medical student. The family has visited New Zealand together and trekked to the base camp at Mount Everest in 2014.
Dr. Rathore has traveled to more than 50 countries. He also likes to read narrative medical histories, even if he doesn’t have as much free time between his job and his candidacy.
“It is incredible how many more people I'm getting to know,” he said. “I'm really learning a lot more about the people of the AAP — the chapters, the districts, the pediatricians and the great work they're doing. The journey is terrific.”
The AAP election will take place from May 26-June 9 at aap.org/vote. Visit Dr. Rathore’s website at https://mobeenrathore.com/.