July 26, 2023

Member Spotlight: Elizabeth Schlaudecker

Dr. Elizabeth Schlaudecker

Elizabeth Schlaudecker, MD, MPH, FPIDS, FAAP, is Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine (UCCOM) and in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Global Health Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). She also serves as the Medical Director for the CCHMC Division of Infectious Diseases. She attended UCCOM for her medical school and public health training, and CCHMC for pediatric residency and infectious disease fellowship training.

Her primary research interests focus on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Her research aims to prevent respiratory viruses in infants and children via maternal vaccination. As an investigator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project, she monitors and investigates the safety of all vaccines. She is the chair of the International Affairs Committee and a member of the St. Jude/PIDS Pediatric Infectious Diseases Research Conference Planning Committee, as well as a member of other committees and working groups of organizations seeking to promote the safety of vaccines and the prevention of respiratory infections worldwide.

Why Pediatric ID? I think it was a series of nudges that led me to the path of pediatric infectious diseases. I remember reading “The Secret Garden” as a child. It opens with a young girl whose parents die of cholera, and she winds up orphaned and away from home. I was most fascinated with the impact that infectious diseases had on the story, how it changed the trajectory of the young girl’s life. I continued to be drawn to ID throughout my childhood and young adulthood. The biggest impact an ID doctor had on me was during my undergraduate years when I worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for two years with Dr. Martin Blaser, investigating Helicobacter pylori. I had no experience in a lab, or really any medical experience, at that time. I was able to work in Dr. Blaser’s lab and shadow some of the infectious disease doctors in their HIV/AIDS clinic, and these experiences made a big impression on me, making me realize I wanted to go into ID.

Where have you taken your ID focus? I trained with Dr. Mark Steinhoff during my peds ID fellowship, and he really fostered my interest in maternal immunization. It has been a passion of mine since I started training, and now is a particularly exciting time for maternal immunization with the development of RSV vaccines and other maternal vaccines that are under investigation. Over the past few years, I’ve worked as one of the investigators in the Pfizer MATISSE maternal RSV trial, and it has been a great honor for our research team and participants to be a part of this trial. It is truly a groundbreaking time for prevention of one of our most feared diseases in pediatrics, and I think maternal immunization is one of the safest and best ways to prevent RSV disease in young infants.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I served as an investigator for the CDC’s Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project to monitor vaccine safety in pregnant and non-pregnant individuals, and it was an incredible growth and learning experience. CISA brought together an amazing group of scientists and physicians to learn quickly about COVID-19 vaccine safety, and we will continue to play a role in vaccine safety as new vaccines become available.

What is a recent development in peds ID you are working on? Most of my recent work has revolved around the CISA project and vaccine safety, as well as the Pfizer maternal RSV vaccine trial. An effective RSV vaccine has been decades in the making, and the success of this trial is incredibly exciting. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine a few months ago. I’ve also been proud of our CISA publications on COVID vaccine safety over the past six months, showing the safety of these vaccines in children, adolescents, and adults. 

What do you enjoy most about being a PIDS member? What keeps you renewing your membership? A definite highlight of PIDS for me has been being a part of the International Affairs Committee. I started out as a member and now serve as chair of the committee. I have met some amazing people throughout this time, participated in conferences and meetings around the world, and helped contribute to the educational programming for those meetings. Committee service has allowed me to meet many other members of PIDS, as has planning for the St. Jude/PIDS Pediatric Infectious Diseases Research Conference. It has been a pleasure to get to know these individuals by working with other committees within PIDS to plan that conference together.

It has also been important to me to understand the leadership structure and to appreciate the impact PIDS has across the country and around the world. It has been beyond my expectations to know how much one can participate in the Society. Starting with just the idea to join a PIDS committee has grown into one of my favorite things about what I do as a pediatric ID doctor. We can’t do anything in isolation. Everything we do – from research to education to advocacy to patient care – is with other pediatric ID doctors. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were isolated and unable to travel, I was truly grateful to be able to connect with our PIDS community virtually. The Society continues to grow and evolve, and I am excited to continue to serve and to see new, young leaders become a part of it.

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