The Children's Institute Blog

Doctor Spotlight: Bethany Ziss

Posted: Oct 31, 2017 by The Children's Institute

We conclude our Doctor Spotlight series today by interviewing Bethany Ziss, Developmental Pediatrician.

Stay tuned for our new series, which focuses on therapists and clinicians, and launches in November!

NAME: Bethany Ziss

Q: When did you start working at The Children’s Institute?
April, 2014

Q: Where did you grow up?
New Jersey and then Massachusetts. I lived in New Jersey until I was 8, which is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place

Q: As a child, what did you want to be?
A: When I was about 5, they broadcast open heart surgery on television for the first time. Apparently I came into the room when my father was watching, sat down on the floor, and started asking questions. So I suppose I wanted to be a doctor. I read a lot of books about disability when I was a kid and that has been an interest since I was in preschool. Then I got really into science and thought I might be the one to sequence yeast DNA. But someone else finished that while I was still in college. And I was still reading articles about medicine the whole time. That’s when I realized I wanted to be a doctor all along. I taught school for five years and then went to medical school.

Q: Where did you go to school?
A: How far back do you want: Elementary School: New Jersey and then Massachusetts

Q: What inspired you to go into your field of study?
A: Years of reading about disability when I was younger, and then becoming more involved with the disability community and eventually the neurodiversity movement.

Q: What do you like most about your job?
I helping children with developmental disabilities grow into the best selves they can be.

Q: What do you like most about living in Pittsburgh? 
A: I love being able to walk almost everywhere I need to go, even to work many days. When it’s too far or too icy to walk, I can take the bus. I am a “city girl” at heart.

Q: Do you have any pets?
Not right now. I had pet fish when I was younger and they all had food names, like Peach, Licorice and Lemon Meringue. I am trying to grow a windowsill herb garden, if plants count.

Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I collect hobbies. My main ones these days are Scottish Country Dance, cooking and solving crossword puzzles. I also love Broadway musicals and am a huge Trekkie.

Q: What is your favorite sports team?
A: I can’t tell one sport from another.

Q: Who is your favorite musician?
A: Most of the music I know was written and performed before I was born.

Q: With what superhero do you identify? Do you have superpowers?
I’ve never really followed any specific superheroes. Years ago, an acquaintance in the disability community said that problem solving was the disability superpower. I think she was probably right. This tends to mean doing a lot of advocacy and using a lot of duct tape.

Q: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you bring?
The usual answers are water, a fire-starter and a radio to call for help.

Q: If you were given a $1 million check to give to one group or charity – other than The Children’s Institute – who would get it?
I’m on the steering committee of the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy, which is an organization run by autistic people to advocate for the needs of autistic people of all ages in Pittsburgh. We have been working on self-advocacy training, promoting sensory friendly events for children and adults and advocating for the rights of disabled people in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania. PCAA’s main purchases so far have been a portable wheelchair ramp and bathroom signs, and has been reliant on grants to fund ASL interpreters for events. So $1 million dollars would go a very long way.

Q: What has been your strangest job? 
My first job was teaching magic to children in a summer program when I was still in high school myself. This is the one people always ask me to explain when they see my resume. “Biology teacher” isn’t a strange job but there were some strange moments during my years teaching at a residential school for teens with behavioral needs. One winter, I was snowed in with my students. Also I have been on a field trip to every museum in Delaware and Maryland including the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

Q: What do you want to do when you retire?
Do I have to? I hope to be able to keep working with children with disabilities as long as I can.

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