On Friday, April 9, Dr. Ingrid Walker-Descartes ’91 returned to campus as one of the 2021 Joan Shaw Herman Award recipients. This award is bestowed annually to Concord Academy graduates in recognition of their outstanding service to others. 

Dr. Ingrid Walker-Descartes has dedicated her career to serving children as a pediatrician with a specialty in child abuse and neglect. She is a training faculty for residents at Maimonides Hospital in New York, and she graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2001. Walker-Descartes is dedicating her life’s work to helping children who are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. She co-chairs the Child Protection Committee and the American Academy of Pediatrics Chapel 2 Committee on the Prevention of Family Violence. A member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, and the AAP Special Interest Group on Child Abuse and Neglect, she is also an APA New Century Scholar Junior Mentor and a faculty scholar at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Office of Ethnic and Multicultural Affairs. 

When asked what inspired her to go into her line of work, Walker-Descartes replied, “I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician from the age of thirteen, and that came with the birth of my sister. Before coming to CA, I spent a lot of time with her, because my family really couldn’t afford childcare.” After coming to CA, Walker-Descartes felt that her dreams of becoming a pediatrician could now be a reality. She emphasized the copious amounts of resources that CA offered her, which opened possibilities that had seemed incredibly difficult before. 

Walker-Descartes always felt a need to give back to her community. In college, she worked with children from under-resourced neighborhoods and ran programs on the weekends where she could mentor or tutor young children. Her passion continued from her time as an undergraduate to a graduate student. She states, “When I went to medical school, I wanted to find that connection again back to the community. So, I joined Students of Rochester Outreach. This forced me into the community not as just a volunteer, but as a physician who wants to go into that field of medicine, and positioning myself with my new skill set.” 

Her experience at the Students of Rochester Outreach helped propel her into her current field of expertise in child abuse and neglect. She stated, “Once I worked in the back with my mentor, I started hearing about the trauma children went through dealing with pediatrics. What I couldn’t reconcile with was the trauma that these children I was in the waiting room with had gone through. I was disgusted by what they had to experience.”  

Walker-Descartes reflected, “But I had so much respect for their resilience, because the strength that these kids demonstrate to be normal despite what they experienced, I felt that innocence needed to be protected. This started me on my path of thinking what can I do to maintain the innocence of childhood and protect them—as much as I can within my power—from these things.” Since then, Walker-Descartes has unwaveringly pursued this cause. 

Please join us in honoring and celebrating Dr. Ingrid Walker-Descartes’ dedication to her work in helping children, especially those who are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. Her recognition of the importance of working across sectors and better caring for individuals and communities is highly commendable. There is no doubt that Dr. Ingrid Walker-Descarters is a role model to many current and future CA students, as she exemplifies many of CA’s core values: devotion to service, social justice, and equity.