Psychologist Helps Kids with GI Illnesses


Children’s Medical Center’s Gastroenterology (GI) program is again ranked as one of the best in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report. Gabby Reed, Ph.D., psychologist on the GI team, helps kids with gastrointestinal illnesses cope with pain, stress and anxiety.

Dr. Reed says her job is helping children be as happy as they can be. And for the petite young doctor with an infectious grin and easy laugh, finding happiness within the walls of Children’s isn’t hard.

Gabby Reed, Ph.D.

Gabby Reed, Ph.D.

“What I love about Children’s is that it’s a happier place to be than an adult hospital,” says Dr. Reed. “It’s kid-friendly. I love coming to work and seeing Spider-Man window washers.”

Dr. Reed’s work involves working with children with diagnoses like functional abdominal pain, commonly called chronic abdominal pain. This gastrointestinal illness is influenced by psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, so what might feel like a mild belly ache to one child, might be ramped up to a severe stomachache for another child. Reed helps patients develop coping techniques to combat this very real pain.

Fighting Fear With Facts

Periodically, Dr. Reed is chosen to explain medical procedures to her young patients and help them work through the emotions of a new diagnosis.

Dr. Reed recalls one particular case involving a young patient newly diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who required a bowel resection. The already shy girl had never been to a hospital before and was overwhelmed, withdrawn and quiet. It was Dr. Reed’s job to tell her that she’d be getting a temporary ostomy and explain what that meant.

Beyond that, Dr. Reed spent time over the following weeks, involving the child in group activities with other children with IBD. Soon the girl was laughing and enjoying an outing at a Texas Rangers game.

The child was eventually able to have corrective “pull-through” surgery and no longer needs the ostomy.

When I can see a smile from a child who might’ve initially been in pain and miserable, that keeps me motivated,” she says.

U.S. News & World Report
Advanced Clinical Services
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedRanked in all, such as celiac disease support group, pediatric interventional radiologist and pediatric liver-specialized pathologists.
Clinical Support Services
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedRanked in all, such as 24/7 acute pain program, surgical ICU and pediatric pain management.
Patient and Family Services
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedRanked in all including interpreters, child life specialists, pediatric psychologists and family resource center.
Specialized Clinics and Programs
Center for Pediatric Urology at Children's RecognizedRanked in all, such as obesity management, instestinal rehabilitation and inflammatory bowel disease.

Having the Patient Perspective

Dr. Reed’s ability to relate to kids with gastrointestinal illnesses is natural and comes from personal experience.

“I spent a lot of time in the hospital growing up. I always knew I wanted to work in medicine,” Dr. Reed recalls. “At first, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor, but then I realized that I wouldn’t get to spend as much time with my patients as I would like. I really enjoy getting to spend an hour with my patients, getting to know them and talk to them.”

Dr. Reed was first introduced to Children’s in 2008 as a post-doctoral fellow. Though she rotated through other departments, she spent more time in GI and loved working with the team. The feeling was mutual.

“When my fellowship ended, everyone said, ‘Oh, no! Do you really have to leave?’ I knew I wanted to stay,” Dr. Reed says. And so she joined the GI team in January of 2009 and she’s been here ever since.

The GI program at Children’s sees close to 500 children a year with IBD, not to mention other GI issues. According to Dr. Reed, the reason for that high volume of patients is easy to understand.

“I see a lot of patients from far away, and our national reputation is what brings them here,” she says, adding that recognition like the ranking from U.S. News & World Report is proof positive that parents can have confidence in the GI team to treat their children with the highest degree of care.

“It’s not just a job for anyone here,” Dr. Reed says of the GI team members. “Their level and depth of concern for these children is impressive and unique.”

She notes that “the GI team thinks beyond the digestive system. They consider each child as a whole person,” says Dr. Reed. “And that makes all the difference in the lives of our patients and their families.”


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4 Responses to Psychologist Helps Kids with GI Illnesses

  1. Vincent February 4, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Good work GI team. This information is very interesting and helpful to the readers. Keep sharing updates.

  2. Ryan Ryan January 24, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    I LOVE Dr. Gabby! My daughter LOVES her too! She has worked wonders for our family through her sessions with my 6 year old. I wish all kids had a Dr. Gabby in their life!

  3. psychotherapy January 13, 2014 at 2:23 am #

    Congratulation GI team. Very good job. This type of job needs patience and effort. You put your all effort . Well done

  4. Alicia August 6, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I’m happy to see Children’s GI team got this accomplishment. My daughter has seen Dr Sangahavi for over a year; I see how hard the team of Dr’s work to make her feel better & cope with her health problems. This makes me feel more confident that I made the right choice in choosing Children’s as our hospital. Congratulations GI team! You guys have done an awesome job & it shows.

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