Healthe-Matters Logo

Essential health information from local experts

Choosing a Pediatrician ~ Ask An Expert

Choosing a Pediatrician ~ Ask An Expert

With First Physicians Group Pediatrician Jose Tavarez, MD

Welcome to “Ask an Expert,” a Q&A series with Sarasota Memorial’s team of doctors, nurses and other health experts, where you can get thorough answers to your health and wellness queries from a local source you can trust. Have a question that you’d like to “Ask an Expert”? Email it to

Expectant parents-to-be have a lot on their plates. Along with navigating the prenatal journey comes a seemingly endless list of to-do’s and important decisions to make in preparation for the new addition’s arrival. 

One of the most essential decisions is choosing the best pediatrician for your family. Afterall, a pediatrician isn’t simply someone who treats a child’s illnesses; this is the person you’ll look to for insight and guidance on your child’s growth and development for years to come. So how can you find the doctor who will be the best fit for your family? Healthe-Matters editors spoke with First Physicians Group pediatrician Dr. Jose Tavarez for some tips on what to look for and what to ask.

Tips & Info for New Parents

Q: When should expectant parents begin their search for baby’s pediatrician?
A: The search for a pediatrician should start at the beginning of the pregnancy. By the second trimester, parents-to-be should have a list of possible candidates and should schedule visits during the third trimester (these are called prenatal visits) to narrow that list and choose a pediatrician.

Q: What should parents look for in a pediatrician?
A: During the prenatal visit (in the third trimester), expectant parents should consider whether the pediatrician is somebody they can be totally comfortable with, someone they can ask any question, and someone they can trust, even with sensitive topics. Try to get to know the pediatrician better with an insightful conversation-starter like “Why did you become a pediatrician?” or “Do you have any kids?”

Keep in mind that a pediatrician is not just the physician who takes care of a baby or child when he/she is sick. Pediatricians also help parents understand each phase of a child’s development and answers all the questions they may have about the child’s health, growth and development — from Day 1, when the baby is born, through all the sick- and well-child visits, right through adolescence. 

Q: What are some must-ask questions parents should be sure to ask?
A: Some important questions to add to those the parents already have include:

  • What are your office hours and availability? Are you part of a physician group, or do you practice solo? Who will treat my child when you are not available?

  • Is there an on-call service available? How are phone calls handled during office hours and after hours?

  • What is your approach to antibiotics/medication? Breastfeeding/infant nutrition? Circumcision? Immunizations?

  • If my child is sick, can I get a same-day appointment?

  • In case of emergency, where do you admit your patients? Any hospital affiliation?

  • Will you take time for my questions during appointments or by phone?

  • Do you follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations? Why or why not?

Q: What are annual well visits and why are they important? What can be expected during a well visit? 
A: Well visits are dedicated time to evaluate the well-being of a child and his/her family. 
According to the AAP, child well visits should begin at 2 to 5 days old, and continue at 2 weeks old, then at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30 months and 3 years of age. After the age of 3, annual well visits are recommended.

A well visit is the time when we focus on what I call the three cardinal points: prevention, development and education.

Prevention: The child’s immunization schedule is reviewed during each well visit to ensure that the patient is up to date. Vaccines are an irreplaceable component in the prevention aspect of the well visit. 

During well-child visits, the pediatrician will perform a complete and detailed physical examination, covering all the systems of the body; at sick visits, physical exams are usually focused on the acute problem, not all body systems.

Screening tests and questionnaires are also performed during well visits. The screenings, based on the child’s age and development, can include: vision, hearing, autism, behavioral disorders, developmental delays, depression, anemia, lead level, cholesterol level, diabetes and others.

Development: At every visit, the child is measured (length/height, weight and head circumference); results are plotted in his/her growth chart, and a comprehensive assessment is discussed with parents. Specific questions are asked about the child development/expectations for the age. Close attention to the physical, language, emotional and social developmental milestones are paid during this encounter, making sure the child is reaching the appropriate milestones. With regular well visits, we can identify any potential concerns in a timely manner and can begin intervention quickly.

Education: Well visits are when parents can get answers to every single question they have about their child’s health and development.

Also, specific topics are discussed during each well visit, based on the child’s age. These can include nutrition (breastfeeding, formula feeding, introduction of solids, what to eat, what not to eat, young adolescent diet, etc.), skin care, sleep patterns, safety guidelines, injury prevention, expected behavioral changes, parenting success, etc. 

Educating and helping families to understand every step in their child’s development is one of the most important and joyful jobs of a pediatrician, and well visits allow ample time for this.

Board-certified pediatrician Jose Tavarez, MD, says there's nothing more rewarding than helping his young patients grow and develop, from birth to young adulthood. Being a pediatrician is "pure joy," he says. Dr. Tavarez serves patients and families at the First Physicians Group Pediatrics office in Lakewood Ranch. Fluent in English and Spanish, Dr. Tavarez is now accepting new patients (941-366-3000). (And more importantly, his favorite Disney characters are Maui, of "Moana," and Olaf, of "Frozen.")

Posted: Mar 5, 2019,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Key