FIU’s Very Own Superhero: Dr. Jennifer Thompson AKA Dr. Spidey

Dr. Jennifer Thompson M.D., with one of her patients

By Michael Grichenco / Staff Writer

A pediatric resident at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital known as Doctor Jennifer Thompson aka “Dr. Spidey,” adores saving the day by making the childrens’ day extra special. By living up to her nickname, and dressing herself in a Spider-Man costume to bring joy to children on the chemotherapy floor as well as in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) while in her free time. 

“As resident doctors, we were always so busy with behind-the-scenes work like pre-rounding, rounding, putting in orders, and writing notes, that we missed out on connecting with our patients in a more meaningful way,” said Dr. Thompson to PantherNOW.

“By cheering up kids in this way, it reminded me of why I chose pediatrics: to help kids and have fun doing it,” she states.

As an FIU grad and third-year pediatrician, Dr. Thompson’s hallmark act initially originated as a joke among her classmates for a class project. 

As her idea caught on and received a warm reception from her peers, she was given the motivation to apply it in the hospital. Her fellow physicians began requesting her to schedule visits to their patients, particularly those who were already Spiderman fans. 

The first time Dr. Thompson put on the Spidey suit, she recounts her excitement in visiting a long-term patient for his birthday. 

“I brought him Spider-Man stickers and he was at the age where he thought I was the real deal,” Thompson said. “It was so much fun seeing how excited he was and making his birthday extra special,” 

Working long shifts in such a demanding field can take a high toll on anyone as she specifies,

 “I am a huge mental health advocate. Of all professions, doctors have the highest rate of suicide. As resident doctors, we often worked over 100 hours per week and we only get 4 days off per month.”

To deal with her hectic schedule, Dr. Thompson created a neat calendar system in Google Excel that she shares with her family and friends to plan activities with them. 

“As a result, I became better at managing my time to spend with loved ones and was also able to continue doing my hobbies like playing ice hockey, scuba diving, traveling, and going to concerts.”

Dr. Thompson visiting a patient in PICU

Reflecting on her time at FIU and working towards her career path, Dr. Thompson’s  primary goal now is to finish her fellowship at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and move back to her hometown in Tampa and secure a position in St. Pete’s All Children’s Hospital, wishing to be as close to her family as she can. 

During her time in FIU, acquiring various personal skills and lessons throughout her college years and now effectively applying them in her professional life, Dr. Thompson offers three valuable bits of wisdom for fellow FIU students:

  1. “Make time to practice self-care and self-compassion. You need to be able to make sure you’re physically and mentally ok before helping others.”
  2. “Be kind to others. How you treat others says a lot about your morals, character, and ethics. At the end of the day, people are going to remember how you made them feel. There’s no reason to be rude, disrespectful, condescending, or hostile towards others. Nobody benefits from that.”
  3. “If you’re going through a hard time, have faith that things will eventually get better. During my residency, I often had thoughts of wanting to quit, but I just reminded myself to take a step back and understand that everything I was going through was just temporary. That reminder always helped me push through my bad days.”

The reaction she receives from the children seeing Spider-Man showing up in their rooms and making their day is priceless. 

As daunting and overwhelming her work can become, it is important to remember that a small gesture like this can go a long way, and an act of kindness can change someone’s world.

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