On Thursday, April 4, Sandy Hook resident and local pediatrician Dr Richard Auerbach was looking over directions and assembling pint-sized furniture in the front waiting room of his new office at 25 Church Hill Road. All around him, boxes waited to be opened, a 150-gallon aquarium still hoped for water and occupants, and the scent of fresh paint was in the air. Contractor Asim Ceylan of Proficient Painting, LLC in Danbury hurried between rooms, adding the finishing touches to the renovations he had handled for the doctor.
But with just over two weeks to the opening day, both Dr Auerbach and Mr Ceylan were both feeling confident that all would be ready for patients on April 22. “It’s turning out a lot more beautifully than I anticipated,” admitted Dr Auerbach.
Deep blue walls accented with tan, and bright white trim create a calming and homey atmosphere to the office space, which has been one of Dr Auerbach’s goals since deciding to leave his former practice at Newtown Center Pediatrics, just a few blocks away on Queen Street.
“My hope is that it won’t be so much like coming to a doctor’s office, but more like visiting in someone’s home… even if you do get a few pinches and pokes here,” said Dr Auerbach.
The decision to strike out on his own, after having shared the Newtown Center Pediatrics practice with Dr Laura Nowacki for the past decade, was not made lightly, but several events made it clear to Dr Auerbach that he needed to pursue his own, independently owned practice. Serious back surgery a year ago made him rethink where he was in life, for one thing.
“I had to think about what I wanted at the end of the day,” said Dr Auerbach. Coupled with the events of 12/14, the pediatrician felt compelled to move on to a new beginning, he said.
Once the decision was made, it was an amicable split, he said, and he has moved forward quickly. The space in the Young Professional Building, an antique home on Church Hill Road, owned and renovated by Dr Joseph Young of Village Eye Care, was available and he liked the proximity to the former practice.
A 1995 graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, Dr Auerbach has always pursued a career in pediatrics. “I love kids. They are a blank slate,” he said. He loves that pediatrics is an area of medicine in which doctors can make most patients better. “[Pediatricians] don’t have to deal with so many ‘self-inflicted’ illnesses, and most of our patients are compliant with what we ask them to do. They are better partners in their health care than a lot of adults — and more fun,” he added.
The waiting room of the new office is divided into two areas, with the giant fish tank set in between the spaces. The aquarium serves a purpose beyond dividing the room into waiting rooms for sick or well patients, though, explained Dr Auerbach.
“I am naming [the aquarium] ‘Be Kind,’ in honor or our 12/14 patients who loved animals, big and small,” he said.
Likewise, the four exam rooms are designated for either very sick or patients there for routine check-ups.
Dr Auerbach is pretty certain that the fire engine exam table in one of the examination rooms will be popular with his young patients, and leave youngsters feeling happy about visits to the pediatrician.
In addition to his new office space, Dr Auerbach is pleased to have a new associate. Dr Marina Arena will be seeing patients on Wednesdays only, to begin, at Auerbach Pediatrics.
Dr Arena may be familiar to many Newtown families. She was a member of the Southbury Pediatrics practice for over six years, leaving there just two years ago to spend more time with her own three children. Currently, Dr Arena works weekends at Firefly After Hours Pediatrics in Stamford, a pediatrics urgent care clinic.
A native of Russia, she is a 1996 graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y., and of Albany Medical College, 2001.
“I thought I would be a surgeon,” said Dr Arena, but her first pediatrics rotation convinced her otherwise. “I knew right away that I would go into pediatrics. I loved the children, I loved the parents, and there is a lot more personal interaction than I would have had as a surgeon, I think,” Dr Arena said.
She completed her residency in pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital on Long Island in 2004.
“Pediatrics is fun,” said Dr Arena. “You get to see the kids grow and feel better, and you can put the parents at ease. I’m very excited to be joining Dr Auerbach,” she said, adding that the two have known each other professionally and personally for several years. “It feels like the right time to come back to the area and return to work.”
“I think Dr Arena is going to be an amazing asset,” said Dr Auerbach. “I think she’s one of the nicest and happiest people I’ve met along the way. I think it will be not only the beginning of an incredible partnership,” he said, “but of a friendship, as well.”
Auerbach Pediatricians provides care 24/7, with Drs Nowacki, Susie Beris, Lalaine Mortera, Corinna Soriano, and Claire Free providing additional coverage on weekends.
Auerbach Pediatrics is at 25 Church Hill Road, Newtown, Suite 102. Entrance is located at the rear of the building. Dr Auerbach and Dr Arena are currently accepting new patients. To contact Auerbach Pediatrics, call 203-426-KIDS (5437). For more information visit www.auerkids.com or Auerbach Pediatrics on Facebook.