Five Amazing Mothers

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re sharing the stories of five incredible mothers from the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital community.

KRISTINA SMITH

Volunteer

As president of the Children’s Hospital Branches, Kristina Smith leads a group of over 250 volunteers. She’s also the mother of Jordan (21) and Blake (18), who has special needs and has been cared for at our hospital since birth.

What has been your biggest challenge as a mother?
Being a parent of a special needs child brings its own daily challenges: advocating for your child, navigating the world of medical specialists and the special education system, helping them forge friendships, and thinking of their long-term situation.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mother?
Watching them try and succeed at new things. My son recently went go-kart racing. My husband and I were doubtful that he would have the dexterity to make it around the track. He surprised us, and probably himself, by racing well. He will never be able to get his driver's license, but now he can experience that feeling by driving a go-kart.

How do your children inspire you?
Both my boys seem to make an impact on those they meet. My older son joyfully engages strangers and makes new friends everywhere. My younger special needs son is well known in our community and his friendliness breaks down barriers.


LEE ATKINSON-MCEVOY

Pediatrician

Dr. Lee Atkinson-McEvoy, MD, is Associate Chief, Division of General Pediatrics and Vice Chair, Primary Care and Population Health. She’s mother to Amara (14), Mason (12) and Noah (10).

What has been your biggest challenge as a mother?
All I want is to see my kids happy. I realize that to ensure a lifetime of happiness I sometimes have to disappoint, anger or upset them. So far, this has involved mundane things like eating vegetables, bedtime, setting limits, and consequences for breaking rules. This is hard to do, especially as they get older and their displeasure is often communicated in ways I can sympathize with, yet it is important for their development into happy, healthy, emotionally adjusted adults.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mother?
My favorite thing is watching my children grow and develop and watching them become their own people. Just spending time with them.

How do your children inspire you?
My kids are incredibly open to the wonder of our world and their potential in it. I am reminded that being hopeful and open to possibility is so powerful and important.


KAZUMI FRENCH

Grateful Parent

Kazumi French has four children: Miwa (27), Austin (23), Marina (20), and Miya (13). Miya was born with a serious liver condition and underwent a transplant at our San Francisco campus – with her older sister as her donor.

What has been your biggest challenge as a mother?
I have been an ER nurse for 30 years, and it was very challenging to separate “nurse” versus “mother” when my daughter Miya was born with a serious medical condition. In 2009, I was challenged with the decision of allowing my 18-year-old daughter to undergo surgery as a living donor to save her sister’s life. I don't think I will ever overcome the helplessness I felt when I hugged them both as they left for surgery.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mother?
When they were young, I cherished picking them up from school and listening to the excitement of what they did in class. As they grow up, I just love to hear their voices at least once a day.

How do your children inspire you?
My children inspire me with their devotion to each other and to others. Miya inspires us each day with her attitude of "I can do anything. Nothing will stop me.”


KRISTIN FLORES

Social Worker

Kristin Flores serves the primary pediatric clinic at our San Francisco campus, with a particular interest in helping youth with chronic illness. She’s mother to son Maz (4).

What has been your biggest challenge as a mother?
Balancing work and home life. I’m very thankful to have family living nearby to help support and care for my child. It really does take a village!

What’s your favorite thing about being a mother?
Every day is a new adventure. Some days may be challenging, while others are triumphant. Motherhood has humbled me, and I am grateful for the simplest of joys. Nothing beats having my son grab my face and say, “Mommy, I love you!”

How does your child inspire you?
My child inspires me to be a better person and a positive role model. Knowing that my son is looking to me to understand how the world works is a huge responsibility. Being at my best for him every day, even if I haven’t had a good day, is something that I try to be mindful of.


NANCY SHIBATA

Chief Nursing Officer

Senior Vice President, Operations & Chief Nursing Officer Nancy Shibata has served our Oakland campus since joining the hospital as a new nursing graduate in 1979. Her daughters are Tracy (32) and Emily (29).

What has been your biggest challenge as a mother?
Balancing being a working mom and the ideals and expectations of "stay at home" motherhood. It took some time for me to learn that it is the quality of time you spend with your kids that makes the difference. I made sure every minute counted when I was with them – be it supporting their school work, wiping their tears, or having fun.

What’s your favorite thing about being a mother?
My kids keep me grounded, make me laugh, teach me lessons all the time, and push me to explore this world and constantly try new things.   

How do your children inspire you?
My kids inspire me in different ways. Tracy is my risk-taker. Watching her navigate the difficult career path of professional dancing to become a successful artist has repeatedly inspired me. Emily inspires me with her determination and focus. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 3 years of age, but she has attacked life as if there was nothing in her way.


To all moms: Happy Mother’s Day!

To celebrate this special day, make a gift in honor of your mother – or any “mom” that’s made a difference in your life.