FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Happy childhood memories plus a job offer enticed a former Interior resident to return to Alaska a year ago.
Shallon Coleman was 13, had completed grades first through seventh at local schools when her Air Force family left the state in 1990. Last year she returned as pediatrician Dr. Shallon Craddock, to work at Tanana Valley Clinic.
"I remember how wonderful my childhood was here," Craddock said, which figured in her decision to return this time with her own family, two decades later.
In spring 2010, after graduating from her pediatric residency at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Craddock received a recruitment email which described a great job opportunity in Fairbanks. Soon, she and her husband, Daniel, were traveling north to interview at the Tanana Valley Clinic.
"It was 20 below, and I think my husband was more excited than me to move here," Craddock recalled.
The positive spirit and people she found at TVC quickly convinced her that the move north was the right choice.
"I was excited about the camaraderie between my colleagues," she said. "We've been here more than a year, and I love it."
Looking around the simply furnished family room at her home in the hills, Craddock said, "Here we are now with a three-year-old living in the woods, just like when I grew up in North Pole."
The couple and their son, Daniel Lawrence, have embraced winter, and the senior Daniel has taken up snowboarding.
He owns IBC & Company Consulting, serving as a business development consultant for profit and non-profit businesses and as a life success and executive coach for individuals. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Craddock's journey back to Alaska has followed an interesting, circuitous trail.
While studying microbiology during her undergraduate days at Colorado State University, she also studied Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where she took up salsa dancing. That led to a stint of traveling the world as a professional salsa dancer.
"I really enjoy learning about other cultures, and dancing later provided balance in my life during medical school." Craddock said.
Her favorite dancing partner is her husband, who she met at UCLA where they were pursuing master's degrees in public health.
Daniel previously danced on the TV program "Soul Train," and during a chance meeting in 2003 with the manager for "Soul Train" dancers, they were recruited to dance as a couple.
"We'd tape a month's worth of shows over a weekend for the weekly program," Craddock said.
The dancing gig lasted for five months, but it is a useful tool to capture the attention of teenage audiences whenever Craddock speaks to them about making good choices, and how to stay happy and healthy.
Mishelle Nace, M.D., Shallon's supervisor at TVC, describes Craddock as a caring individual who goes "above and beyond" what she needs to do for her patients and her families.
"We're very fortunate she joined our team. She is very adolescent-focused, and she takes us to an upper level because of her dedication, desire and willingness to take on adolescent medicine," Nace said.
Craddock's interest in medicine began at a young age and was supported by her parents.
"We began buying her the Fisher Price toy medical kits at the age of four, and later, several "Operations" games," Shallon's mother, Glenda Coleman, said.
Always an excellent student from elementary school on, Craddock only doubted her career path once, her mother said.
Glenda remembers it like this: Craddock was taking her first EMT class and accompanied her instructor on a call to the scene of a bad traffic accident. She was shaken by the experience and her ability to handle it.
"We were devastated, too," Glenda said, referring to Shallon's father, Lawrence, "But we were patient with her, and the hospital where she worked at the time was a good support for her."
Craddock overcame her doubts and she pursued her medical studies graduating from University of Colorado School of Medicine with a medical doctor degree. She also has experience doing public health research at Los Angeles County Sexually Transmitted Disease Program and the RAND Corporation in Washington, D.C., with Dr. Nicole Lurie, the former assistant secretary of Health and Human Services.
Deciding to specialize in pediatrics was an easy decision for Craddock.
"It's taken a lot of work to get here, but it doesn't feel like work. It's been very natural for me," she said.
"I've always had a preventive mindset and a love for teaching, too. Since high school I've done a lot of mentoring with children. I love my work from the littlest baby to adolescents."
Prevention and education are at the top of Shallon's list for raising healthy children, especially combating the obesity epidemic among children that leads to chronic disease in childhood such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and depression.
It's important, Craddock said, to keep kids busy and see that they do well in school. She advises parents to meet their children's teachers and be involved at school. Outside of school, see that children are involved in activities such as clubs, sports and church.
Whenever Craddock talks to teens she encourages them to make good choices which she calls the "bricks" that are forming the pathways of their lives.
At age 19, Craddock started an abstinence program for teens at her church in Colorado on how to date in a healthy way.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com