Health care hero: Dr. Jennifer Haggar, pediatrician

She loves seeing children grow up, and parents mature in their roles, too

Three kids and their mom, a Sanford Health pediatrician, look to the right of the frame as they explore Falls Park and one girl points.

Dr. Jennifer Haggar grew up on a farm near Hartford, South Dakota, and was recently entertaining her children — on Mother’s Day, no less — by showing them how to climb hay bales.

Not a typical mom, or a typical pediatrician, for that matter.

“They thought that was pretty cool,” she said. “When I showed them how I did it, my son’s eyes got as big as saucers. He’s like ‘You can climb up there?’”

Dr. Haggar, who works at Sanford Children’s 26th and Sycamore Clinic, humbly wondered why anyone should want to recognize her for her work. When told, however, that one of the criteria was liking your job, she agreed she fit that part of the definition.

“I can’t think of many jobs where people bring adorable children to them all day,” she said. “It’s just a really fantastic thing. I get to do visits a lot of times where everything is good. That’s not always the way it is in medicine.”

Every minute counts

As a pediatrician, Dr. Haggar can watch children advance to adulthood. She also watches families grow in number while witnessing the process that transforms rookie parents to seasoned veterans.

All the while, she reminds herself that there is nothing routine about her profession. An appointment might take up just 20 or 40 minutes of her day and repeated dozens of times over through the course of a week, but to a family it can represent so much more.

“When that family looked at the calendar, it might be one of the big things that was happening that day or that week of that month,” Dr. Haggar said. “I always try to remember that when I’m with them. They might have been thinking about questions to ask for a long time. It’s really important to be present in that time to give them the best experience and information.”

An opportunity to help

There are inevitably instances within the life of a pediatrician where the topics discussed are more serious. On those occasions, she gives herself a little pep talk.

“I try to remember that this experience is happening for that family whether I’m there or not,” she said. “I have the opportunity to be part of making things a little bit better for that child.”

Daniel and Jennifer Haggar have a son who is 9, as well as a 7-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old daughter. They like to spend time together on family activities like fishing, or at Jennifer’s parents’ farm. They are both deeply involved in their church, where Dr. Haggar helps out with the youth group.

Ultimately, it’s always about the kids. That’s a good way to think about it if you’re a pediatrician, but there’s more to it. Dr. Haggar doesn’t just enjoy her work. She seeks out new ways to help people.

“I wanted to find something that would help me love this forever,” Dr. Haggar said. “Having more complex patients engages me mentally and it also helps me be an advocate for kids and their families. Medically I can continue to learn and investigate. That has helped me day-to-day feel satisfied about how I spend my time at the clinic.”

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Posted In Children's, Health Care Heroes, Sioux Falls

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