Dr. Joseph Lambert: Decades as a pediatrician paves the way to behavioral pediatrics

Laughter is definitely good medicine. It helps build a connection and develop a relationship with children, regardless of their age, background or even their challenges.

“Kids keep you young,” said Dr. Joseph Lambert, a longtime pediatrician who practices behavioral pediatrics (similar to child psychiatry) at Western Sierra Medical Clinic. “You can goof around with them, and laugh with them. It’s not a one-way street, I get a lot out of it, too. It helps me and the kids.”

Dr. Lambert, who started practicing pediatrics in Nevada County in the 1970s, has traded annual checkups, flu shots and growth charts for conversations – often difficult ones – to help children with issues from clinical depression to those considering suicide.

“I was ready for a change, and there was a big need” for behavioral pediatrics in the community, said Dr. Lambert, who learned about childhood counseling from providers with Nevada County Behavioral Health for more than a decade. “I slowly evolved. But it’s really natural to go from general pediatrics and get into psychiatric management medicine.”

ADHD, anxiety, behavioral issues and family problems, such as abuse and drinking, are common matters that he helps patients and families navigate.

Dr. Lambert was inspired by Magnificent Obsession (Lloyd C. Douglas, published in 1929).  The novel, which was later made into a movie, is about a man who dedicates his life to being a doctor after being saved by a rescue crew while a nearby physician died across the lake at the same time.

“It was my big ‘click’ moment,” Dr. Lambert said. “I was focused – I was going to be a doctor.”

His commitment to being a doctor led him to University of Texas in Austin, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and later medical school. He completed a pediatrics residency at the University of Oregon.

Dr. Lambert delayed the draft in order to complete his medical training and then joined the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Lambert was the chief of pediatrics for the hospital at the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, about 45 miles southwest of Fresno, for two years. Then, he and his family started looking for the best place to live and join a pediatric practice. They settled on Nevada County, where Dr. Lambert established his own practice.

“I always wanted to be in the West and in the mountains, if I could,” he said.

He hasn’t left since, and lives in a small house in Alta Sierra. Away from work, Dr. Lambert enjoys playing pickle ball, watercolor painting and learning the piano. He has three adult children, including a son in medical school.