Tiniest Patients Captured His Heart

Above: Steven Gwiazdowski, M.D., cradles one of his young charges in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NorthBay Medical Center.

Neonatologist Steven Gwiazdowski, M.D., had his heart set on becoming a pilot, but that was before a physical determined that nearsightedness was an issue. “In those days, it all but disqualified candidates from flight school,” he remembered. But it didn’t stop him from pursing medicine, so he figured a flight surgeon might be the next best thing.

During his time in medical school, he decided to go a different route. “I became passionate about the care of the tiniest, most vulnerable members of our society.”

He served his residency at David Grant Hospital, back when it was known as “the Hospital on the Hill,” and then set off for a fellowship in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/ University of Pennsylvania.

When he returned to Travis Air Force Base in 1988, it was to the newly opened, bigger and better David Grant Medical Center. He attained the rank of major and served for four years as medical director for the David Grant Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, or NICU.

He was on active duty during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and was ready to deploy to Europe if the call came, but it never did.

“The most satisfying aspect of being a physician is the connection I have with my patients, families and the NICU staff.”
~Steven Gwiazdowski, M.D.

In 1994, he began full-time work at NorthBay Medical Center in Solano County’s only Level III referral center for premature and critically ill babies.

Even though Dr. Gwiazdowski couldn’t be an Air Force pilot, it didn’t stop him from becoming an instrument-rated pilot. The lessons he learned in the aviation world of teamwork, communication and continuous quality improvement influenced his approach to patient care, he said.

“In the unforgiving world of aviation, attention to detail, discipline around checklists and anticipating contingencies have helped prepare me for treating very complex patients in the NorthBay NICU, some of whom have less than 3 tablespoons of blood in their entire bodies,” he said.

His time in the service taught him the value and sanctity of camaraderie. “The most satisfying aspect of being a physician is the connection I have with my patients, families and NICU staff,” he said. “I am so blessed to practice here.”

“The most satisfying aspect of being a physician is the connection I have with my patients, families and the NICU staff.” ~Steven Gwiazdowski, M.D.

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