Houston cardiologist chosen to head Baylor College of Medicine's department of pediatrics

Houston cardiologist chosen to head Baylor College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics

As a child, Lara Shekerdemian looked forward to doctor’s appointments. They introduced her to a job that will one day become her vocation.

“I was one of those kids who loved going for checkups, even vaccinations,” said Shekerdemian, who was recently named chair of the pediatrics department at Baylor College of Medicine, after serving as chair by interim since April. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve been interested in anything medical.”

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Shekerdemian is also the chief pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital.

“Children today face new threats and challenges that, if left unaddressed, will negatively affect their health and well-being,” said Shekerdemian, who in recent years helped the hospital’s intensive care unit grow from 80 beds on one campus to more than 170 on three campuses.

She has also worked closely with her medical cohorts in the development of dedicated sub-specialties in the pediatric intensive care unit, including heart failure, neurology and pulmonary care.

His research interests include cardiovascular physiology, mechanical cardiopulmonary support, and long-term outcomes after ICU admission, particularly after surgery for heart disease. In his new role, one of Shekerdemian’s many goals is faculty development and retention.

“It’s easy to recruit people because we have an amazing brand,” she says. “We are part of a large college and hospital. But for me, a sign of success is to keep those people.

“If we do a great job and they become brilliant clinicians and then they leave in grade 5 or 7, it’s up to us to decide why we wouldn’t have kept them here for a much longer period of their career.”

Inspire the next generation

Shekerdemian received his medical degree from the University of Birmingham Medical School in the UK, with training in paediatrics, pediatric cardiology and pediatric and adult intensive care. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in the UK and a Fellow of the College of Intensive Care Medicine in Australia.

In the decades since, she has been a role model and mentor to up-and-coming talent, including Dr. Chetna Pande, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Critical Care at Baylor College of Medicine.

“I really seek to emulate his clinical, research and leadership skills throughout my career,” Pande said. “Dr. Shekerdemian is a world-renowned cardiologist and intensivist whose professional accomplishments and publications have shaped the cardiac critical care profession as we know it today. Along with a deep understanding of cardiopulmonary interactions, his work on neurodevelopmental outcomes in the congenital heart disease population has positively impacted the lives of countless children and families.”

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Going forward, Shekerdemian also hopes to enhance existing partnerships – as well as forge new ones – with various departments within Baylor.

“We have a fabulous university environment and the opportunities for partnerships are there for the taking,” Shekerdemian said. “Paediatrics is a huge department, but so is adult medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and all the other areas. This is somewhat uncharted territory. Really, the sky is the limit.

When she’s not overseeing a world-class ward with a slew of diverse care providers, Shekerdemian is at home in Houston with her husband and 8-year-old son, Max.

A passionate pianist, she was once at the crossroads between medicine and music as a career.

“I was a very musical kid and played the piano a lot,” Shekerdemian said. “It came at a crossroads where there were two things I loved doing. Clearly the two can’t overlap.

In the end, medicine won.

“I loved the idea of ​​science being involved in healing and helping people,” she said. “It sounds a bit schmaltzy, but of course we do it because it’s a caring profession. I came to medicine because I love patient care.

Kim Kyle Morgan is a freelance writer based in Houston.

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