The name Frances Niarhos may fly under the radar screen for many, but to the hundreds of families of children with cancer, she provides compassion, empathy and a sense of direction to help them navigate through difficult times. Frances is a child clinical psychologist at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Her work involves identifying the learning, memory and cognitive problems children can develop as a result of being treated for some forms of cancer. Once these problems are identified and described, Frances works with parents and schools to develop an appropriate educational plan for the child. A small amount of her work is focused on more “traditional” therapy to help children who are undergoing active treatment of cancer.
One of the accomplishments Frances is most proud of is the program she developed with two of her talented collegues, who are also child psychologists, to support children and their families as they make the transition from full-time cancer treatment to full-time school attendance.
It is with great pleasure that StyleBlueprint introduces you to Dr. Frances Niarhos.
What inspired you to get into your current profession?
Child psychology was a field I was drawn to as an undergraduate. I think it must have had something to do with the notion that big problems could be prevented by intervening earlier before smaller problems get out of hand. My current interest in learning issues in children with life-threatening illness feels somewhat like a imperative of current pediatric care. Children with previously life-limiting diseases are surviving in greater and greater numbers all the time, but we need to be sure they are living a quality life, and for children, quality of life necessarily involves school and learning.
You are in a job where you deal with many challenges to assist families through the ordeals of cancer. What advice do you have for women who may be in jobs that are equally stressful?
I imagine not everyone could replicate what I have that keeps me sane, which happens to be two incredible colleagues to work with side-by-side every day. Research on stress has shown that there is a uniquely female response to stress known as “tend and befriend.” This is in contrast to the more typical male response of “fight or flight.” Because I have two great female colleagues to collaborate with all the time, I spend my days “tending and befriending.” Essentially, women under stress need to stick together and help each other. My best advice for women in stressful jobs (if you can’t find fabulous women colleagues like mine) is to have an outlet. You must have a way to fill up your cup, whether that’s through exercise, reading, being with friends, or whatever. You have to find a way to carve out time for yourself and re-energize. Personally, my husband and I try never to work at home when we can help it. You have to draw the line somewhere, and I try to draw it at my front door.
Where did you grow up?
My dad was in academic medicine when I was younger, so I sort of grew up all over the place in my early childhood: Rochester, NY, Washington, DC, and La Jolla, CA.
When and why did you move to Nashville?
What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given?
Honestly, this one would have to harken back to my sweet, tiny grandmother who never tired of telling me the Golden Rule: “Do unto others and you would have others do unto you.” I must have heard her say that to me a dozen times every time visited her, and I am sure I rolled my eyes every time she said it after my 12th birthday, but it is probably the best simple piece of advice I know. You can solve a lot of problems – big and small – if you just treat people the way you hope they would treat you.
Greatest piece of advice you can give about your profession?
This isn’t so much advice as it is a truth…being a child psychologist will not make you a better parent, but being a parent will make you an infinitely more wise child psychologist.
What books can be found on your bedside table?
I am always working on at least one book from each genre: nonfiction, fiction, and work-related. My currents are The Blessing of a B Minus (Wendy Mogel), State of Wonder (Ann Patchett) , and Long-Term Memory Problems in Children and Adolescents: Assessment, Intervention, and Effective Instruction.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Go out to an early dinner – lately the sushi bar at Virago – and then spend the rest of the evening on the screened-in porch at home catching up with my husband over a dirty martini or a glass of wine. All the better if it’s raining.
What event are you most looking forward to attending in August?
I am so looking forward to a dear friend’s wedding in Malibu later this month! It will be great to celebrate the wedding of two terrific and deserving people, and I can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about over Malibu. Late August is always such a good time to get away from the sweltering heat of Nashville. I am also excited to welcome another dear friend’s daughter to Vanderbilt this fall. This will be our first friend to send their child to Vandy/Nashville, so we are super excited to show them some southern hospitality.
What is your “must-have” purchase for the upcoming Fall season?
Sadly, I’m a terrible shopper. Truly, I rely on the ladies of StyleBlueprint to tell me what I need.
Where is your favorite place to eat in Nashville?
A tried and true place for our family is Siam Café off Nolensville Road. The food is great, there is always a table, and the price won’t break the bank.
Favorite vacation spot?
Ten years ago my husband and I spent a week in an out-of-the way town on the northern California coast called Bolinas. The locals are notorious for trying to keep Bolinas “off the map” to tourists and vacationers, so it is just a sleepy California beach town just up the road from Stinson Beach. We thought it was heavenly, and have been plotting a way to get back there ever since.
Do you have a playlist for a dinner party or a great workout that you can share with our readers?
In this era of the playlist I seem still to be an album girl. A few newish ones I have been enjoying lately are Ron Sexsmith’s Long Player Late Bloomer, Shawn Mullins’ Light You Up, and Elizabeth Cook’s Welder (the track “No to Booty” is not to be missed!).
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God).
- My Kindle
- The Rhapsody connection on my computer at work