As the only primary care pediatrician in Greene County trained to diagnose tier 1 autism in toddlers, Dr. Laura Waters knows what it’s like to deliver an overwhelming diagnosis.
“I know this can be a low moment in the life of that family,” she says.
But thanks to advancements in treatment and detection through the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes Autism program, Waters says she can offer families hope amid the pain. The program run by the University of Missouri allows doctors to work with families to receive a diagnosis for their child within two or three months, Waters says, much faster than the typical waiting period of 18 months from a regional autism center.
“I get to walk with families through the journey of diagnosis, treatment and ultimately joy when their child tells them ‘I love you’ for the first time and begins to recognize and show affection,” she says. “That is why I do this every day.”
Waters says she was only 5 years old when she felt called to medicine. She’s put that passion toward her work over the past six years as a pediatrician with Mercy Springfield Communities.
“I get to support and guide families through the challenging toddler years, the fun and learning of elementary age, assist them in navigating the drama of middle school and finally help to prepare them to be healthy young adults,” she says. “I love getting to see my patients grow up.”
Waters completed her residency in St. Louis at the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, after earning a bachelor’s in biology from Drury University and a doctorate at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. Waters is continuing her studies at Drury and says she’s on track to earn her MBA in May 2019.
When she’s not with patients, Waters says she’s committed to lift public education in the areas of child abuse and pediatric health. She has regularly appeared for the last nearly two years on KOLR10’s morning show “Daybreak” to speak on topics ranging from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to measles vaccinations. This past year, she also raised $1,375 for Child Advocacy Center’s Over the Edge fundraiser, which has participants rappel down the Sky Eleven building downtown.
In June, Waters completed a five-year board term for the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, where she also served as membership chair from 2016 to 2018.
“One of our main focuses is advocacy and working with state and local legislators to guarantee that children in Missouri receive the best care,” she says.
Dr. Kristin Sohl, who has worked with Waters as the ECHO Autism director, considers her colleague a physician worth emulating.
“Not only does she deliver high-quality patient care, dedicate her time to serving her community through local organizations and champion causes for kids throughout Missouri,” Sohl says, “but she goes above and beyond to expand her knowledge and practice to serve vulnerable populations.”
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