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Family shares unwavering clinical commitment and a legacy of caring for patients at Memorial Hospital

In the White family, health care is practically the family business. Both parents and three of four of their adult children are (or were) doctors or nurses. Even better, three members of the family work here at Beacon at Memorial Hospital.

Patriarch Robert White, MD, heads up the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Memorial, as well as a robust clinical research program. His son, Luke White, DO, is a pulmonary, critical care, and internal medicine physician in the Pulmonary Critical Care Unit and daughter Kieran Moseng is a nurse in the Ortho Neuro Patient Care Center.

Given that dad, Robert, is a physician and mom, Kathy, worked as head nurse of the NICU at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore, their children’s career paths might seem predestined. Of course, each member of the family has a unique story and journey that led to their current roles. But having parents who so clearly believed in serving others surely played a part.

Dr. Robert White

How it started

Robert and Kathy met here in South Bend, and both then went to Johns Hopkins for their medical training. Feeling a bit homesick while Robert was wrapping up medical school, Kathy came home to South Bend and started working in Memorial’s NICU, making her the first person in the family to join Beacon.

Over the next few years, as Robert completed his training and began his career, they’d spend time in South Bend, Baltimore and even London. They married and started a family, with Kathy retiring from nursing to focus on raising their family. And then in 1981 Robert accepted a position as the first neonatologist at Memorial Hospital.

Robert marvels now at the twists and turns in their journey. “Kathy was the first one to work at Memorial’s NICU before I even imagined that would be my specialty or my ultimate location,” he said. “Neat how God arranges things, huh?”

Childhood memories

Looking back, Robert says he and Kathy didn’t push any of the kids toward medicine; their interest came about naturally. “When I came home, I might refer to something cool that happened or something hard that happened. They got the sense that it was gratifying. Hard work, but worthwhile,” he recalled.

Sure enough, Kieran remembers her father’s dedication in working long hours to care for his patients. “My father was the only doctor practicing in the NICU for many years,” she explains.

“The thing I remember is that Dad was working a lot,” Luke confirmed. When he wasn’t working, Robert was always with the family. But Luke recalls that sometimes work and home life overlapped.

“One of my earliest memories is sitting at the nurses’ station,” he said. “The unit clerks let me sharpen pencils. I remember the hospital as a happy place full of people who loved what they were doing.”

And then there’s the time back in the 1980s when a local zoo needed help with monkeys that had been born prematurely. The primate preemies were soon in the White family home. “We had an old incubator from back in the day,” Luke said. “For a while, our laundry room turned into a monkey NICU. One of my early memories is seeing my parents taking care of monkeys.”

Kieran Moseng, RN

Kieran’s nursing journey

With such strong caregiving models in the home, it’s not surprising that Kieran had an early drive to become a nurse. In fact, she originally wanted to be a neonatal nurse practitioner, “blending the best of my parents,” she said.

After high school, she attended community college and was accepted into a university nursing program. But then her life took an unexpected turn.

At age 18, she was diagnosed with a chronic health condition. She no longer felt nursing would be a good fit, and after several years went back to school for interior design, which had been another passion.

Impressed by how design can affect healing, Kieran hoped to combine her two loves and find work in hospital design. But the closest jobs were in Chicago, and by then she was getting married and starting a family.

Fortunately, Kieran gained better control over her health over the years, and she was able to return to school for nursing. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made,” she said. “I’m grateful, because it took me so long to get there.”

She says that her patients have just as much impact on her as she has on them. “They’ll say we make the difference, but we’re paid to be there,” she said. “It’s very humbling, and I’m grateful to be in a position where I can meet these people.”

Dad was happily surprised at how things have turned out for Kieran. “I can’t say I saw this coming,” he said. But he feels that her role as a nurse is “a great way to utilize her skills, this empathy she has. I was sure she’d be good at it.”

He enjoys the fact that, even if they don’t work together directly, they’re both at Memorial. “I was really happy we would share that,” he said. And there are benefits to having family members who “get” the medical field.

“For someone not in medicine, some situations might be hard to understand or talk through. We can mostly listen or maybe offer some perspective. It has been a bond that has strengthened over the years.”

Dr. Luke White

Luke’s love of medicine

Lots of kids play at being a doctor; for Luke, it turned out to be prophetic. But medicine wasn’t his only interest. “I was an English major,” he said. “I thought I wanted to go into medicine, but I also loved literature. I was kind of hedging my bets, to be honest!”

Luke’s dad says it wasn’t obvious that Luke would pursue a medicine; he could just as easily have been a writer. “He’s a superb poet,” Dad said proudly. “He still does some spectacular writing.”

But Luke says what’s more surprising than choosing medicine is that he wound up back in South Bend.

“I never expected to come back home. I went to medical school in Arizona, did my residency in Manhattan and fellowship in Los Angeles. I loved the big city,” he explained. “But there was nowhere that compared to Memorial in terms of the quality of care and sense of community. And being near to home and able to work in the same building as my dad and see my family after work is just an extraordinary privilege.”

Yet it’s the former English major’s love of storytelling that helps make his practice of medicine so rewarding. “The stories in medicine are really compelling, and I get to be part of them every day.”

Original childhood drawing by Dr. Luke White.

He shared one in particular that touched his heart: Several years ago he took care of a young man whose father told Luke, “Your dad took care of me when I was a baby.” Luke asked his father if he remembered the patient, and Robert confirmed that the patient had been one of the tiniest babies he’d ever taken care of. In fact, the patient had been one of several premature babies that, at that time, would have been considered nonviable. Under Robert White’s care, all three lived.

“I’m seeing more and more of these folks who now have babies of their own. They’re living their lives because of what Dad did 40 years ago,” he marveled.

How it’s going

Today the family gets together often outside the hospital. Robert loves that he has so many grandchildren close by, and they spend plenty of time with Grandma and Grandpa.

While at work, the White family caregivers are far too busy to visit with one another. But once in a while, two or more of the three will care for the same family at Beacon.

“Every now and then our patients will overlap,” Robert said. “Luke will see someone in the adult intensive care unit who had a baby in our unit … I think it’s comforting for families that there’s a family name and trust already built in there.”

He added, “It’s really another source of gratification to be able to share all this and get together at the end of the day and do regular family things.”

All three share a love for Beacon and gratitude for the opportunities they’ve had.

“Memorial is the best hospital in the area. I’m so grateful. The team I work with has been amazing,” Kieran said. “I’m in equal admiration of my brother, my dad, really all my family members. Any time somebody has something nice to say about my family members, I’m just proud to be part of it.”

“It’s a dream to be living in the same area, moving forward with the same mission,” Luke said. “Beacon has been so good to our family, and I could talk for hours about the blessings we have received from the hospital.”

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