At the last Expatclic meeting in London, I met a very special woman. Silvia Pierini is an Italian paediatrician, and I’d like to introduce her especially to mothers living in London, because she is an amazing resource! Besides, the story of how she managed to successfully export her profession is really interesting.
Silvia is sitting in front of a jerk chicken in a Caribbean restaurant in Brixton. We chose this restaurant after she cheerfully stopped a security guard at the Village and asked him to recommend a good place for lunch. “I’ve always done this since I arrived in London”, she tells me. “The best way to find good places is to ask someone who has already been there”.
Silvia moved to the UK capital eight years ago, when her enthusiasm for her work in Italy started dwindling. With a degree in medicine and a specialization in paediatric oncology, she has always followed her big passion: children. For eleven years she worked at the Pontedera Hospital in her native Tuscany as a paediatrician and neonatologist, and as a breastfeeding consultant in the maternity ward. With a Master’s in Neonatology and an IBCLC certificate as breastfeeding consultant, she held breastfeeding courses in various Tuscan hospitals.
Then her first contact with England was made. Silvia felt the need to start looking beyond her borders, and she took advantage of the fact that she could get sabbatical leave if she accepted a role within a European project. She moved to Birmingham. The experience was not a great one, though. She liked her job, but colleagues were rather cold and unwelcoming, and after a while she was told the institution would rather end the contract.
Silvia returned to Italy determined to stay. She got her job back, but very quickly that old suffocating feeling returned. “Sure, I was in a very safe place”, she says. “I was good at what I did, and appreciated. I did interesting things, which I enjoyed, but life outside work was boring, the routine flat.” And she also wanted to grow, to test herself, to experiment.
After a while and by chance (but nothing really happens by chance, does it?), she was contacted by the Chelsea Westminster Hospital that had got her name while she was working in Birmingham: they had a contract ready for her, and the only thing missing was her signature. It didn’t take long for her to make up her mind. This time Silvia left with renewed strength from her previous experience, and her objectives were clear.
She immediately started her intense work in hospitals, at St. Thomas first, and collaborated with a wide network of institutions. During those years she got to know the well-off West of London, and the poorer East. She learned to deeply understand the English system of managing medicine, and started with a few private clients. She worked as a consultant, which in the English system is the highest rank in medicine. With all the experience she had, word of mouth was enough to create a circle of families that called her at home to cover the various needs of children of all ages.
Parents were happy with Silvia, they called her and recommended her. With her serene but highly professional air and her big heart, which brings her very close to the core of problems, Silvia took was a natural as a family doctor, like those doctors who used to be the norm (at least in Italy), who knew your story from birth and on whom you could always count, for a cough syrup or a reassuring word on the phone at any time.
In England there is no family paediatrician like in many other European countries. Children are in the hands of general practitioners who do not have the child management experience of a paediatrician, especially when those children are very small. Besides, the National Health Service is overloaded and patients generally only have a ten-minute appointment. Parents do not have as much space to discuss their problems as they’d like. Many foreigners are not used to this approach. They want a paediatrician’s reassurance and enough time to be listened to and to clarify all their doubts. In her practice, Silvia devotes an hour to each patient, thus giving parents all the space they need.
She has therefore become an important presence in some of the foreign communities in London. Her clients are Italian, South American, French, Spanish, and Lebanese. She likes families. Besides welcoming them in her practice, she also visits them at home, something very few still do nowadays, unless at exorbitant prices.Silvia is so motivated, that her fees remain accessible, too.
“London’s mentality is very profit-oriented”, she tells me, “but what I most care about is maintaining a solid relationship with my families. They know I am always available. They call me any time and if I can, I assist them with my heart, without thinking that many of my colleagues do not even pick up the phone”.
I had the opportunity to experience her warmth first-hand. Despite having said good-bye to childhood for a while :-), while I was in London I got a nasty urinary tract infection, and Silvia took care of me in a way that really touched my heart. I can say with no hesitation that if I got rid of the infection, it was thanks to her: she acted as a wise complement to the hospital treatment.
I ask her what she likes about London, whether she feels happy here. “It is an amazing city”, she answers. “Days are never the same, here. Every day brings new discoveries. There is an enormous vitality in London, you really have the feeling you’re moving forward, you’re able to accomplish, to realize something. I fell in love with London immediately, and I still am”.
I am sure, Silvia, that the Italian community, as well as all your clients from other countries, are happy to have you and keep their fingers crossed that this honeymoon will never end…
Photo Credit ©SilviaPierini
Translated from Italian by Claudia Landini
To contact Silvia:
For appointments at the clinic (58 South Molton Street, Mayfair W1K 5SL)
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
For home visits or advice, contact Silvia directly:
Tel.: 0781 4298494