Pediatrician opens practice with doctor who delivered her

PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

Good news for readers with kids. Vero Beach has a brand-new pediatric practice – and there is a charming story behind it.

Forty years ago, Dr. Asoka Wijetilleki, a Vero Beach pediatrician fondly known as Dr. Wije, held a newborn girl in his arms wondering what she might become. Little did he know that 39 years later he’d get a phone call from her asking if she could join him in his practice when she returned to Vero after living and working in New York. And that just a short time after joining him, she would end up being his boss and the future of the practice.

Dr. Jessica Cruz is the grown-up version of that baby girl. The Vero Beach native was a patient of Dr. Wije’s for her entire childhood and even shadowed him while she was in college, still sorting out what to do with her life.

She figured out her path, graduating from the University of Florida and then earning her medical degree at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She then went on to complete a three-year pediatric residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City before establishing herself as a pediatrician for several years in the Bronx.

“Dr. Wije is the reason I decided to specialize in pediatric care,” Dr. Cruz said affectionately.

“He set such a great example that I wanted to make the same impact on children.”

When she decided to move back to Vero with her husband and two sons, her first call was to her childhood pediatrician to see if she might be able to join him in his practice. By this time Dr. Wije had joined the AdventHealth group and was no longer in private practice, but he paved the way for her to join his team.

As fate would have it, though, after the pair worked together for about a year and a half, AdventHealth decided to move to Melbourne, leaving the doors wide open for the two doctors to transition back into a private practice. The way they worked it out, Dr. Cruz is the owner of the newly minted Vero Beach Pediatrics and Dr. Wije works for her.

“It’s all come full circle,” Dr. Wije said with a smile. “I’ve known Jessica her whole life and now she’s taking over. While I have no intention of retiring, having her handle all the business side of our practice frees up my time to do what I love most – taking care of our little patients.

I know when the time comes to hang up my stethoscope that Dr. Cruz will continue to offer the same compassionate care that I have provided here for the past 45 years.”

The staff at Vero Beach Pediatrics is keenly focused on the importance of good health for children from birth all the way through adulthood and are committed to providing quality care that meets the needs of the child while giving peace of mind to the parents and family.

They see children from birth until about the age of 21 for regular checkups, treatment, vaccinations, nutritional guidance, and screenings for physical and educations issues.

They also recognize that childcare starts even before birth and offer prenatal classes once a month for expectant parents. For the past four decades Dr. Wije has been calming the nerves of new parents by helping them understand what they need to know before they bring their baby home and teaching them precious lifesaving skills like CPR.

“Dr. Wije’s classes are informal and fun, and first-time parents love them,” said Dr. Cruz.

“They always want to know what danger signs to look out for and Dr. Wije assures them that the hands and feet can be blue, but if the lips are blue you can be in big trouble.”

Once the baby is born the doctors make courtesy visits to the hospital to make sure everything is going well. After that it’s recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics that the child be seen for routine well-care visits at three to five days, and two, four and six months, followed by visits every three months until 18 months and then at 24, 30 and 36 months. After that, annual check-ups are recommended until adulthood.

“Our goal is to grow as Vero grows,” Dr. Cruz explained. “There are a lot of families moving down and we want to care for them in a very personal, private setting. A nurse practitioner will be joining us soon and we look forward to adding more physicians as needed. Our philosophy is to include parents in the entire process and give them all the information they need to properly care for their children.”

“We want to give the best possible care and we have a fantastic staff,” added Dr. Cruz.

Dr. Wije and Dr. Cruz have a relationship nurtured through a lifetime of trust and admiration and now the children and families of Vero Beach can benefit from their combined knowledge and wisdom.

Vero Beach Pediatrics is welcoming new patients at 959 37th Place, Vero Beach. Kids will love their brightly colored exam rooms decorated in superhero, fairy-tale and underwater themes. Call 772-569-3212 to schedule an appointment.

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