A kid's feet are shown hanging as they sit on a toilet. A diaper is shown on the floor.Unless you’ve known a child with genital or urinary tract problems, you may not be aware of doctors like Kirstan Meldrum, MD, a pediatric urologist who sees kids at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Their work is life-changing.

Sometimes, children’s urologic abnormalities, also called “plumbing problems,” show up in prenatal ultrasounds, which give parents time to anticipate and prepare for upcoming issues. In other cases, trouble urinating or an infection uncovers a problem as the child develops.

Pediatric urology is a surgical subspecialty that deals with a variety of genital abnormalities, obstruction of the urinary tract, kidney stones, urinary incontinence, bladder exstrophy (bladder open on the outside of the body) and disorders of sexual differentiation (ambiguous genitalia or abnormal gender development).

Dr. Meldrum’s job involves a lot of reconstructive surgery—what she describes as “remaking what is abnormal into something that functions well for the child.”

Because every patient is different, it’s a creative process.

“I’ve had patients hug me because they are so excited  I was able to help them get out of diapers and into regular underwear for the first time in 10 years,” Dr. Meldrum said. “It’s very rewarding to know I’ve made their life better.”

Comprehensive care is a big priority for Dr. Meldrum. Ideally, patients should be able to have all of the services they need—from imaging to neurology, surgery and other specialties—under one roof instead of traveling for hours to get the specialized care they need. The children’s hospital provides that level of care.

Dr. Meldrum has devoted her life to helping children with a variety of abnormalities. She did her pediatric training at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, spent 10 years on the faculty at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University, and was the former chief of pediatric urology at the University of Florida.

She moved to Michigan in the fall of 2013 and is a NIH funding investigator with a pediatric urology research laboratory at Spectrum Health Basic and Translational Research Laboratories.