May 22, 2024

Member Spotlight: Kari Simonsen

Dr. Kari Simonsen
Dr. Kari Simonsen

Kari Simonsen, MD, MBA, FPIDS, is chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Pediatrician-in-Chief of Children’s Nebraska. She earned her medical degree at UNMC and her MBA at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Her residency was completed at Indiana University and her pediatric infectious diseases fellowship at Brown University.

Dr. Simonsen’s research interests include infection prevention, hospital preparedness, and antimicrobial drug discovery clinical trials. She serves on the Programs & Meetings Committee as chair for the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting (PAS) and PIDS liaison, and as vice chair of the Finance Committee.

Why Pediatric ID? I think it was a gradual realization that infectious diseases was all along the area that was most interesting in medicine for me. I was a biology major as an undergraduate at Nebraska and loved microbiology and parasitology. I also worked in a microbiology lab as a research technician and enjoyed that experience. The primary investigator had a Drosophila lab, and I volunteered to help out over there one afternoon and quickly realized I enjoyed the Pseudomonas lab a lot more! (Characterizing those fruit fly wings and eye colors? It just wasn’t for me.)

There were also great educators and mentors in ID who were instrumental in my decision to pursue the specialty, notably, Drs. Jose Romero and Archie Chatterjee when I was a medical student at Nebraska, Drs. Marty Kleiman, Jim Conway, and John Christensen during my residency in Pediatrics at Indiana, and my fellowship mentors at Brown for helping me find a path within the specialty, Drs. Penny Dennehy and the late Georges Peter. The impact of these great mentors and teachers was really impactful for me. I encourage everyone to follow their example and continue inspiring the next generation!

Where have you taken your ID focus? Though the majority of my time is currently spent administratively as a Department Chair in Pediatrics at UNMC, I consider myself a clinician educator. I continue to work closely with educator colleagues from the Council on Medical Student Education in Pediatrics (COMSEP), and serve PIDS and our ID colleagues as a course director for two annual meetings, the SHEA/CDC Training Course in Healthcare Epidemiology held at SHEA Spring, and as the PIDS liaison to the PAS planning committee (which I just wrapped up my term as). The PAS role ensures that PIDS content is visible, timely, and engaging at the PAS meeting. The PAS meeting is an important opportunity for those of us in PIDS to present our work with other pediatric specialists and researchers, and to highlight opportunities in the field of pediatric ID for the many residents and students who attend.

What is a recent development in peds ID you are working on? Infection prevention has been a focus of mine, particularly special pathogens preparedness and management. I recently had an opportunity to work with a great group of colleagues (Drs. Larry Kociolek, Andi Shane, and Danielle Zerr) to put together a review on this topic for the Pediatric Clinics of North America, “Infection Prevention and Control Implications of Special Pathogens in Children.” We will be highlighting some of these concepts at an IDWeek session in Los Angeles. Through the Pediatric Pandemic Network and the National Emerging Special Pathogens Education and Training Center we work to ensure pediatric patients, and families, are thoughtfully included in preparedness efforts. Many of our PIDS colleagues are contributing to these broader efforts.

What do you enjoy most about being a PIDS member? What keeps you renewing your membership? PIDS offers the opportunity to network with colleagues and peers to build collaborative efforts that support our research and teaching, as well as improving the care delivered to patients. PIDS also provides a wonderful opportunity to connect with and support one another through the challenges we all face in medicine. 

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