A conversation with South Bay pediatrician Dr. Rita Tenenbaum
Originally from Russia, Rita Tenenbaum, MD, moved to the South Bay 25 years ago and opened her own practice serving the kids (and parents) of her new community. She now works at the new Torrance Memorial facility located at Pier Avenue and PCH in Hermosa. We caught up with the busy doctor to chat about her journey to the states, parenting, her practice and thoughts on vaccines—among other child health topics.
In 1990 you and your husband moved from Russia to the United States. How did you land in the South Bay?
Dr. Rita Tenenbaum: The relatives we came to live with bought a house in Redondo, and we fell in love with the neighborhood. When we moved on our own, we had our first apartment in Hawthorne. Then we moved to Torrance. We finally settled in North Redondo Beach, and that’s where we lived when I went through residency.
How was the transition, coming from Russia to sunny SoCal?
RT: It was different … but if you embrace the new place you go and embrace the culture with open ears and open eyes, you’ll succeed. And that’s what we did.
When did you first know you wanted to work with children?
RT: I love kids; I always felt that kids were so much more fun than adults. Also my parents were both physicians. My mom was an OB/GYN, so I heard about deliveries and babies all my life, and my dad was a psychiatrist. When I made the decision to go into medicine I opted for pediatrics, and I’ve loved every moment of it.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Hermosa Beach location?
RT: It’s a great location, and location matters because you have to be accessible. I’m between two schools. I’m next to the performing center where the kids go—I’m literally in the middle of their world. Also it’s easy for the parents. I find most of my patients live locally; I see them at the beach, in the restaurants. It’s a very homey feeling here, and I love it.
What advice can you give new parents bringing home baby for the first time?
RT: Your child is your child; you cannot raise them based on anybody else’s experience but yours. You can read many books, but by the end of your child’s first year, you’ll be able to write the book on your child.
Really, first birthdays should be in celebration of the parents. They made it through the first year with a happy and healthy child, and they should be praised for every moment of that.
Any tips for avoiding the constant cycle of illness that happens when kids start preschool?
RT: First of all, they’re going to get sick. You just need to accept that fact. If you go into it knowing this, you’re not going to be panicking every time they catch a cold.
My advice: When your child comes home from school, have them take their shoes off and change them into home clothes. This way whatever sneezes and germs they carried home from school, you’re taking off. This is what I did with my own kids, and this is something I tell all my patients. Also, wash their face and wash their hands.
With vaccinations having such a large presence in the discussion of our children’s health care, where do you weigh in on the matter?
RT: I love vaccines; I think they are the future. The diseases we vaccinate against, not a single one of them is curable. And if we think about that and how many things we have going around, how many colds your child gets within the first year … if on top of all of those colds your child were to get one of these diseases we vaccinate against, how many of the children who go to school today would not make it through their first year?
But I do think we need more education about what vaccines are and how they work. There is so much misconception about how vaccines are made and how they are prepared.
Over your 15+ years working with young patients, are there any moments in particular that have left an impact?
RT: When one of my first patients came to me with her own child, that made me feel, on one hand, very old … and on the other hand, very loved. Because if she trusted me with her health and now trusts me with her child’s, that tells me I’ve done something good.