“How do we really help people change the trajectory of their lives?” asked Dr. Pradeep Gidwani, TSDF Board of Governors Member, reflecting on the overall theme of his work and philanthropy.
Dr. Pradeep Gidwani, MD, MPH, FAAP was raised in a family dedicated to helping those in need through career and service.
As a doctor, his mother has helped people for as long as he can remember, while his father always supported their local community. He remembers accompanying his father to feed neighbors in need and participating in other activities that involved giving back.
For Dr. Gidwani, philanthropy started at the age of 15 when he developed a community project at a local center that supported children with special needs. Dr. Gidwani rallied his fellow students to raise money for toys and games, and to play with the children weekly at the center. Since then, he’s continued to address the needs of children and families in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Boston and here in San Diego.
Dr. Gidwani’s career as a pediatrician and a community health leader are driven by the desire to understand how communities can best support the health and well-being of youth and their families.
An Early Start Matters
From his time with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to his year spent working for the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality in Washington, D.C., Dr. Gidwani’s work has focused on early childhood development.
To emphasize the importance of childcare and early intervention, he referenced the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted in San Diego 20 years ago. The study revealed that adverse events such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction experienced during childhood can impact a child for life by correlating ACE data with the health outcomes of adults.
“This is groundbreaking work,” Dr. Gidwani said of the study. “We can have the biggest effect early in life, and the biggest effect we can have is changing the parent-child relationship.” He added that a child’s potential can be unlimited when they come into the world feeling loved and supported, and with parents that encourage social and emotional development.
Dr. Gidwani’s expertise is understanding how to make a difference in children’s lives early – not only for the child, but for the parents as well.
“I don’t think we as a society do a great job of supporting families – particularly mothers,” he shared, adding that women have traditionally borne the brunt of child and elder care, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the second-lowest female participation in the workforce because of the childcare issues in San Diego,” he shared, referencing data from our recently released childcare report with San Diego Workforce Partnership.
Building Resilient Families & Communities
Dr. Gidwani expressed his excitement as Co-Chair of the Strategic Planning Task Force at The San Diego Foundation amid the launch of the new Strategic Plan and its focus on children and families.
The third Strategic Plan priority, which aims to build resilient communities, falls in line with Dr. Gidwani’s expertise. One tactic is of particular importance to him: improving mental and behavioral health. He is confident that The San Diego Foundation can look at this data at the local level and mobilize the right partners in a meaningful way to support child and family development.
Currently, Dr. Gidwani works at American Academy of Pediatrics, California Chapter 3, San Diego and Imperial Counties (AAP-CA3), which has partnered with its pediatricians to give more than 1 million books to children through the Reach Out and Read program. He has also collaborated with First 5 San Diego on Healthy Development Services, a program that treats children with mild to moderate behavioral and mental health concerns, for the past 15 years to reach more than 334,000 children and their families.
“Our organization works with existing partners and leverages funding to serve more children and their families,” Dr. Gidwani reflected. “I am excited that The San Diego Foundation’s approach is similar in bringing people and resources together to address the big challenges in San Diego.”
After 25 years of talking about disparities in healthcare and early childhood development, Dr. Gidwani is familiar with viewing these disparities through an equitable and cultural lens. “I’m a more informed advocate because of what I’m learning through my work on the Board of Governors,” he emphasized.
According to Dr. Gidwani, The Foundation is evolving into a community foundation with an impactful leadership role in addressing big issues like race and equity, and behavioral and mental health. “Supporting families and helping parents have the tools to support their kids is really critical,” he emphasized. “We cannot be a strong community unless all of our communities are strong.”