Carrie Leff and Lisa Klein
As physicians and friends, Carrie Leff, an internist and pediatrician at Henry Ford Health in Bloomfield Township and Lisa Klein, a pediatrician with Child Health Associates in Troy and Novi, play an important role as co-founders of Turning Teen, a platform that offers workshops about puberty for children and their parents.
“It’s a passion project,” said Leff, who has three daughters and practices adolescent and women’s health exclusively. “There wasn’t a whole lot of teaching and we thought it would be helpful for parents. We wanted to start the conversation.”
What began at various venues shifted to an online format during the pandemic. “Being body positive should be normal. When you think of it as a science lesson, it’s much easier to go through,” she added. “It’s so great to empower parents and teach them how to have those hard conversations that are so meaningful.”
Leff always had an interest in adolescent health and her recent focus on women and girls 10 and up fills a void for an age group that can be overlooked with pediatricians often catering to babies and OB-GYNs who tend to be more associated with sex. “There is a lost group of patients we don’t see well,” she said. “I am really interested in that cross-sectional age of transition.”
She earned her medical degree at Midwestern University in Chicago, while Klein went to Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Klein, who lives with her husband and their two sons, followed a similar path. “I knew I would end up working with children,” said Klein who worked as a camp counselor and had a passion for teaching and public speaking. “Medicine has provided that for me.”
She comes from a family of physicians. Growing up, Klein’s family knew Leff’s, and the women reconnected during their residencies.
Turning Teen came about when they reconnected once again online and discovered they had similar interests. “We are parents and pediatricians and we believe all pediatricians and parents need access to information,” Klein said.
“We’re so passionate about that and we realized that we had a lot to offer, so we said, ‘Let’s be a resource.’”
Their passion project went from family and friends to group discussions about puberty for parents and kids.
They would like to expand their reach, which currently includes in-person and virtual platforms as well as pre-recorded sessions.
After being approached by a publishing company to write the second title in a series, the two co-authored “Celebrate Your Body 2: The Ultimate Puberty Book for Preteen and Teen Girls,” that covers topics such as body changes, sex and gender. Recently, the book was banned from public school libraries in parts of Florida.
While Klein said she finds the ban scary and sad, she does see an advantage. “The silver lining is the publicity that comes out of this and how proud we are about this important information and the resources that we generate,” she said. “Health is imperative to safety and well-being.” In response, she and Leff recently had an opinion piece published in The Washington Post.
In the end, they just want to facilitate conversations that may be harder for parents and kids to initiate. “As a pediatrician, I love having both medical knowledge combined with parenting knowledge to help others be better parents,” said Klein.
As a parent, she knows how difficult the role can be. “Turning Teen is just like having a resource for kids who are bullied or need help with their eating healthy or a new teen driver,” she explained. “Puberty is a part of life. Everybody goes through it.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Laurie Tennent