From doctor to decorator: COVID pandemic spurred her to make a change of a lifetime | Jenice Armstrong
Kwandaa Roberts has shifted her entire career focus away from her work as an OB-GYN at Holy Redeemer Hospital to being a stay-at-home mom with a fledgling interior design business.
I don’t know anyone who has undergone the kind of pivot Kwandaa Roberts has. Her life has practically done a 180-degree turn since the pandemic began, hopefully for the better.
Since spring, the Elkins Park resident has shifted her entire career focus away from her work as an ob-gyn at Holy Redeemer Hospital to being a stay-at-home mom with a fledgling interior design business. Next week, she will make her TV debut as a decorator on the reality TV show Sell This House!
I wrote about Roberts in 2018 when she first started attracting national attention because of a dollhouse she’d created in the farmhouse-chic tradition of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines. It was a lighthearted human interest column about a local doctor with a passion for dollhouses. At the time, it was a break from the more serious topics I usually write about.
Now, I am circling back because Roberts has somehow figured out a way to make her passion for dollhouses and interior design her primary career. And get this: She was inspired in part because of what she experienced during the pandemic in the spring.
“My father got COVID early on in March, and he was intubated and in the hospital for five weeks, and then he died," said Roberts, 47. “I just was gutted. My kids got pulled out of school.”
A side gig Roberts picked up in January of reviewing medical charts also ended around the same time. Roberts, who had reduced her work schedule at the hospital to spend more time with her children, couldn’t bring herself to return to work full time.
“I was terrified of getting COVID. I literally had PTSD because of my dad,” Roberts explained. “I was like, ‘I’ve got these kids. I’m by myself.’”
Meanwhile, she kept getting calls about her dollhouses. In May, the New York Times approached her, and also Parents magazine.
“I got contacted by a publishing company — I can’t say who they are — to write a dollhouse book,” Roberts said. “So I’m writing a book with a major publishing company. Also, someone big at a major network saw me in the New York Times and asked to feature me and my dollhouses in what they’re doing. I’m building a [project] for them.”
“And then I got the call about Sell This House!” she said.
Filming for that began in early July. By the time she was finished, Roberts had completed five episodes with the reality TV show produced by A&E Network that helps homeowners sell their properties. As the show’s decorator, her job was to beautifully stage houses to help them sell more quickly. Photos of her from the set show her all glammed up and posing with host Tanya Memme. The first episode airs at 10 p.m. Monday on FYI, a cable channel owned by A&E, and on Saturday at 11 a.m. on A&E. Roberts has come a long way from wearing hospital scrubs.
Sure is gutsy. A whole lot of folks wouldn’t dare make a change like this after having invested so much time and money in establishing a medical career.
At a time when so much is going wrong, it’s good to see someone step out like this.
Roberts feels guilty about leaving some of her patients, but pointed out, “This was a tough decision for me, but I needed to focus on my own family, and to try and pursue some other passions.”
After all, some opportunities only come around once.