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“Children need to know they are loved just for being themselves and not for any thing they do”, with Dr. Vonda Wright and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

There is not one definition of a good parent, as each child needs their own kind of parenting. In the end children need to know they are loved just for being themselves and not for any thing they do. They need to feel safe, in place, in structure, in mind and body. Being a good […]


There is not one definition of a good parent, as each child needs their own kind of parenting. In the end children need to know they are loved just for being themselves and not for any thing they do. They need to feel safe, in place, in structure, in mind and body. Being a good parent is placing your children before yourself and growing them into confident, kind, contributing adults. If I have done these things I will have been a good parent.


As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Vonda Wright. Dr. Wright is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and internationally recognized authority on active aging and mobility. She specializes in sports medicine and currently serves as the inaugural Chief of Sports Medicine and Orthopedics for Northside Hospital System. Previously she was the inaugural Medical Director of the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, an innovative collaborative initiative between the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey organization.

Dr. Wright is the founding director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA) and her pioneering research in mobility and musculoskeletal aging is changing the way we view and treat the aging process.

Dr. Wright maintains a practice focusing on minimally invasive arthroscopic and reconstructive surgical techniques of the hip, shoulder and knee and treats athletes and active people of all ages and skill levels from high school to college, recreational, Olympic and professional players.

As a team doc, she is currently the Medical Director for Georgia State University, Hi-Rez E-Sports team, select Atlanta Track Club races, is an Atlanta Ballet Physician and was the head physician for the University of Pittsburgh Football team for five years and head team physician for five of the University of Pittsburgh Olympic teams, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, the Pens Elite Youth Hockey system, is a match physician for the World Rugby 7’s, and the medical director of the Pittsburgh Triathlon.


Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born to a Chinese mom who immigrated to go to college, and a dad from Kansas when they were grad students in Chicago. After my brother was born we moved back to our hereditary farm in Kansas where I was raised through high school.

I learned amazing things living on a farm and I always tease that if being a surgeon didn’t work out for me I could go back to my farming skills.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I am an orthopedic surgeon and sports team doc, and in the last six years at the University of Pittsburgh I served as the medical director of a joint venture between the University and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Through this and through my own entrepreneurial pursuits, including book writing, speech giving, and producing products sold in sporting good stores, I discovered that not only am I an entrepreneur, I’m an intrapreneur…. meaning I build businesses within established systems.

I came to Atlanta to build an orthopedic surgery and sports medicine department for Northside health system. It truly is a “build from the ground up,” gathering faculty, resources, building the strategic vision for the next five to 10 years, and very exciting.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I’m a morning person, but you know that in order to be high-performance I must protect my sleep.

Therefore, I get up at 4 AM and work in the quiet of the morning and get a lot done.

By 6:30 am my house is awake, I’m getting my youngest child ready for school, the dogs fed and my husband and I are reviewing our day. By 7:15 I’m either in the operating room or by 8 am in my office.

After finishing surgery or my meetings, you can often find me standing on the sideline of a sports event taking care of the athletes or taking my daughter to ballet lessons, track practice etc.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

Actually research out of Harvard has shown that daughters of working women become more independent and ultimately more successful than if they had not experienced their mother working.

This is encouraging to me, because, I like all women, struggle with the guilt of dividing my time.

I can say personally that all of my children have become independent and highly functioning young people, for which I am thankful.

I must say truthfully that I am fortunate to have a spouse who is a full partner with me and does at least half, probably more, of the household/family responsibilities, as well as parents who are fully involved in our children’s lives.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a story or example from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

The house we moved into in Atlanta has a very large master closet that a New Yorker could live in, and therefore, my daughter and I have placed in this special “wardrobe” place to have private talks, relax after the day and just be together.

It has always been important for me to take our children away on trips, particularly our last daughter. She is now an only child in the house, so periodically she and I will go away for a weekend as “Mama-Bella time”

I do agree that the quality of the time is so important and do specifically create a time that is meaningful, versus copious time in the same house but not engaged.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

1. Batch phone time so it is not continually in play

2. Dinner dates

3. Engage in purposeful discussion and guard this time

4. Play a game or walk together

5. Snuggle on the couch.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

There is not one definition of a good parent, as each child needs their own kind of parenting. In the end children need to know they are loved just for being themselves and not for any thing they do. They need to feel safe, in place, in structure, in mind and body. Being a good parent is placing your children before yourself and growing them into confident, kind, contributing adults. If I have done these things I will have been a good parent.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

It’s a rough world out there and from the minute of her birth I decided that I would purposefully build my daughter’s confidence in herself and her abilities as there would be plenty of people outside our home who would level-set. As a parent I try to support and provide opportunities for our kids to challenge themselves while we are still a safety net. When my 11-year-old, newly-on-pointe daughter wanted to test her capability by auditioning for a New York summer ballet intensive, we let her know the other dancers were older and had danced longer. I was prepared to soothe her if she didn’t make it and cheer her when she did.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Our success is doing everything possible to teach our kids to optimize their opportunities via hard work while staying grounded while we both maximized our own talent in medicine and sports.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

None. I learned to parent from my parents and from being a nurse.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’m often asked to give advice to college, medical students and young surgeons looking ahead to success. Of all the advice I give the most practical is to “work so hard that all doors remain open to you.” This means optimizing your board scores, harvesting opportunities to learn and making sure you are ready when opportunities arise.

In my own experience I have drawn on two quotes as I progress:

FDR once said, “ The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today: Let us move forward with strong & active strength.”

Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you envision.”

Living by these requires knowing yourself, realistically evaluating the risk of action versus our unrealistic fears and actively pursuing life.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I created a non-profit called “Women’s Health Conversations because women make more than 80% of all health care decisions in this country for themselves and for everyone they touch. Yet I have found in my practice women often do not know the power they have for changing the health of this country, or don’t know how to start. I believe that if I can change the health of one woman I will change the health of her family, her neighbors, her co-workers, and that one woman at a time we can change the health of her town, state and ultimately this country. By focusing on building healthy neighborhoods, harnessing technology and educating women and their 5th grade daughters, we can pivot the health of this country from disease care to true health and well being in one generation.

Thank you for sharing your inspirational thoughts with us!


About the author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment. An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits. Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”. When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.

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