Dr. Santiago has dreamed of working in healthcare since she was a child.
Dr. Cristine Santiago has a passion for taking care of children and said it’s hard to have a bad day when she constantly sees the smiling faces on her young patients every day. When she’s not tending to patients at Community Health Centers, she is entertained by books, movies and trips to the beach.
When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor? Why?
Since I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor. Even as a little kid, I knew that my passion lay in healthcare. I always wanted to visit hospitals and was captivated by seeing doctors and nurses going about their work.
What is your medical specialty, and how did you choose this?
Before medicine, I was an athlete, which initially led me to consider a career in sports medicine. However, after doing an internship in a pediatric hospital during undergrad, I found my place. I choose to become a pediatrician early on and never looked back.
What are some of the advancements in your particular specialty about which you are particularly excited?
I never thought that I would be living and working through a pandemic. Pediatric populations have traditionally been left out of research studies. During these difficult times, seeing different studies enrolling pediatric patients in vaccine studies is encouraging advancement.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Making a difference. Despite whatever hardships they are going through, the smiles on my patients’ faces make it all worth it. After seeing 20-30 smiling children, you can be tired, but never can you be sad or unhappy.
What do you love most about serving patients in the West Orange community?
I love the diversity within the West Orange community. Every day I learn something new from my patients and their families. Also, being able to provide resources and good medicine to underserved and diverse communities is immensely gratifying. Collectively, we try to meet our patients where they are, whether addressing medical needs or social needs.
What are your hobbies?
I love spending time with my husband and daughter. Having grown up in the Caribbean, I find myself trying to get to the beach as often as possible. I also enjoy watching movies and sports.
Describe your earliest memory of going to the doctor.
My pediatrician was my doctor from birth until I was 21 years old. He was my pediatrician, my mother's pediatrician and was even my daughter's first pediatrician. I remember that he always greeted me with a handshake. He was a gentle and compassionate person who made us feel like part of the family.
Who are some of your most important influences and role models, and why?
My mother is my role model. She always told me that whatever I decided to do, to do it with love. She was a school counselor and always took her students' cases to heart. This is how I try to be with every patient I encounter.
What are some of your favorite TV shows or movies?
I like action movies, dramas and romantic comedies. I'm a Disney fan, so I love most of the original Disney princess movies. I also love “Grey's Anatomy” and have binged on it since college.
What are some of your favorite local restaurants or cuisines?
As a typical Puerto Rican, my favorite food is Puerto Rican food! You can find me eating anywhere that has a great Mofongo. Pizza, though, is a close second.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three books would you want with you?
Since high school/college times, I like all the Dan Brown books (fiction), especially “The Davinci Code” (that is my favorite). I will definitely need those books with me if I'm alone on a deserted island. Since medicine, I have been trying to read more books that are not medicine-related, but honestly, it's been almost impossible.