- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2001

Questions, questions and more questions. Parents and soon-to-be parents sure do have an unlimited supply. As a father, I have scrambled through books and Internet sites at all hours of the night to learn about high fevers, rashes and sleep habits while waiting for my son's doctor to call back.
Four years ago, Dr. Paula M. Elbirt and her husband, Harold Engel, foresaw a need to quickly help mom and dad with child health issues. They developed a Web site filled with answers and forums to help alleviate some stress and misconceptions. Once a "mom-and-pop" operation, it has grown to be one of the more widely used pediatric Web sites with more than 70,000 unique visitors every month looking to make parenting a little easier.

Site address:

www.drpaula.com

Creator:

Mr. Engel and Dr. Elbirt created the concept and content of www.drpaula.com. They are based in Washington, N.J. Dr. Elbirt's current assignments include training, education and motivation of future pediatricians at an inner-city medical center in New York City and being on the staff at three New York hospitals Lenox Hill, Beth Israel and Mount Sinai, where she is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine.

Creator quotable:

"We developed this Web site with the desire to reach parents in order to answer their specific questions regarding pediatric care and parenting. Our goal was to provide state-of-the-art information of the highest credibility, by renowned experts, in language that was comforting and accessible to parents of all backgrounds," says Mr. Engel, president of Drpaula.com Inc.

Word from the Webwise:

Why are the terrible twos so terrible? How important is the mother's diet to her fetus? I have heard it takes three days for a cold to surface in an adult after being exposed. Is that true?
These are just some of the queries answered in this well-designed, but sometimes too-succinct site.
Primarily concentrating on OB-GYN and pregnancy, breast-feeding, pediatrics and child psychology, the site offers many levels of conversational content with experts making cyber house calls on a daily basis.
Using "Pediatrics" as an example, visitors will find more than 100 topics to explore, ranging from "Bed Wetting Blues" to "Mosquito Bites"; an explanation of the 21 items that should be in a medicine cabinet; an alphabetical archive to 350 maladies that affect children, including links to scientific sites; chat rooms; and a guide to over-the-counter drugs.
One of the site's major strengths is the quick response the three lactation consultants and 10 pediatricians from around the country give to an avalanche of parents. Each section features an "ask the … " area with a 30-day archive of questions and answers and a search engine to isolate topics.
In one day, the pediatrics team fielded 51 concerns on everything from a 15-month-old eating dog food to infant drooling.
A section just for teen-agers concentrates on 35 issues and provides brief answers to topics related to the body, sexuality, pregnancy, birth control, outward appearance and puberty.
Little informational bonuses also pop up all over the site. Under "Pediatrics," Dr. Libby's Diary gives a personal account of what it is like for a pediatrician to raise three daughters. Daily journal entries from the past 21 months cover the lives of Audrey, Bethy and Abby and explore topics such as potty training, enjoying favorite foods and dealing with a chronic respiratory virus.
Other areas worth checking out include a parent-to-parent forum, funny answers to some common pregnancy questions, a section offering cold and flu tips, and lists of product recalls.

Ease of use:

drpaula.com uses colorful backdrops, a bit of behind-the-scenes technology and a sense of humor to make for an enjoyable visit. Pages use lots of hot linked arrows and icons for efficient navigation. Visitors must register to use the chat rooms or forums, but all other content can be viewed without a password.
One problem with the site can be found under "Traveling Parent." What starts out as a great idea, offering a network of doctors around the world for families to use when dealing with a vacation emergency, makes me a bit nervous. Why should I trust a Dr. Enoks Bikis when visiting Latvia? Dr. Paula gives me none of his credentials.

Don't miss:

Visitors in need of a moniker for their tot need only stop by the Baby Name-O-Matic for a quick look at the history and etymology of some names. Just type a name such as "Jerad" into the field and click start to learn the name's meaning and potential ethnic origins. I learned Jerad means "descending" in Hebrew, was a pre-flood biblical name, was the name of a character in the 1960s TV western "Big Valley" and has an English translation of "rules by the spear."

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.
Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).


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