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Care, Where and When Children Need It Most

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LOUISVILLE Michelle Stevenson, MD, MS, serves as the division chief of emergency medicine in pediatrics at the University of Louisville. She also practices clinically at Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center.

The Louisville native earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Indiana University and her medical degree from the University of Kentucky. She completed a residency in pediatrics at UofL, followed by a fellowship in pediatric emergency medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Why Pediatrics?

During her residency, Stevenson struggled to choose between specialties but ultimately found her calling: “I wanted to focus on pediatrics because of the joy of caring for children and families. The variety of pediatric emergency medicine cases, as well as the opportunities to be on front lines of diagnostics led me to the field,” she explains.

She also studied child life intervention during IV insertion in pediatric emergency treatment during fellowship. Guided by her interest in this research, she also obtained a Master of Science in epidemiology from University of Cincinnati.

She and her husband Brad moved to northern Ohio for a few years before they returned home in 2008 and Stevenson rejoined the faculty. “Even though I had been away for eight years, the influential teachers who had shaped me during my residency were still part of pediatrics. I wanted to be involved in a fast-paced practice environment with a dedication to Louisville’s children,” she adds.

She credits a few such doctors as part of that decision, such as Ron Paul, MD, division chief for more than 25 years, as well as current chair, Kim Boland, MD. She also includes Jan Sullivan, MD, and Vicki Montgomery, MD as two other important mentors for her in the University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics.

“I wanted to focus on pediatrics because of the joy of caring for children and families.”— Michelle Stevenson, MD

Academic Work and ELAM

Last year, the Hedwig van Ameringen Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM) Program elected Stevenson as the 20th faculty member chosen from UofL. ELAM is a one-year fellowship for women in medicine, dentistry, and public health. Focused on education and networking, ELAM prepares more women like Stevenson for executive roles in academic health sciences. Stevenson recently completed the ELAM program.

As the division’s administrative chief, Stevenson allocates time for office responsibilities and splits the remainder of her busy schedule between seeing patients, teaching, and research. She has acquired research grants since 2002, and has grant awards totaling about $1 million that will support her extensive pediatric outcomes research until 2023.

Patient Population

University of Louisville’s Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine is responsible for treating acutely ill and injured children across a wide spectrum of disease and injury patterns, from minor injuries to life-threatening conditions.

Technical Advances

Recently, improved testing for viral and bacterial conditions linked to respiratory infections and meningitis have become commercially available. Stevenson has seen the recent rise of the rapid polymerase-chain reaction influenza test, which she upholds as a significant improvement in diagnostic testing in her field.

Stevenson also anticipates improved bedside ultrasonography in emergency departments, which exposes problems such as blood in the abdomen after blunt trauma or foreign objects lodged in the skin. Ultrasonography can identify these conditions in seconds, leading to faster treatment and recovery.

Research Grants and Studies

An avid researcher, Stevenson serves as the site’s primary investigator on several multi-center grants about bronchiolitis, a diseased caused by various viruses that often presents during in winter. Bronchiolitis can cause extreme respiratory distress and impacts caregivers because the disease is both hard to treat and highly communicable.

In the interest of infectious disease prevention, Stevenson works with a coalition that examines Kentucky’s antibiotic use and overuse, which can lead to resistance to the drugs. She has also worked with a team to study the prescribing patterns of opioids to children. This work was recently presented by Kasi Eastep, DO, a resident in pediatrics at the University of Louisville, at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Common Misconceptions, Vaccines and Public Health

Stevenson wants other medical professionals to understand that the vast majority of US children do not receive care in specialized pediatric emergency departments. As such, she urges professionals who care for children in emergency settings to study materials from the Emergency Medical Services for Children Innovation and Improvement Center and Kentucky Pediatric Emergency Care Coalition. These comprehensive guides highlight proper protocols, equipment, and quality control for exceptional pediatric emergency care in all settings.

Stevenson addresses a pervasive current media topic, measles: “Measles is a highly contagious viral illness, preventable with vaccines. I fully support timely vaccines for all children. When we can prevent an illness through immunization, it has a profound impact on the child, family, and caregivers. For this reason, I’m a strong advocate of vaccination,” she says.

Other avoidable public-health crises she feels important to her field include motor-vehicle safety, firearm safety, abuse prevention, and mental health care. Unfortunately, related incidents account for many emergency department visits every year.

Ultimate Objectives

In the future, Stevenson hopes to see a significant drop in infectious disease across the department, especially as more vaccines, such as those used against influenza, are further developed and refined. She also emphasizes the importance of adequate public health research to prevent injuries.

“Much of the advancement in our field depends on Emergency Medical Services Corporation (EMSC) supported programs — like the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network — which need research funding to inform doctors caring for acutely ill and critically injured children alike,” she urges.

Stevenson adds, “There’s a great deal of work to do to keep more children from coming through our doors. After all, that’s our ultimate goal as emergency care providers. Until then, we’re here to give them exceptional care.”