Kate Kernan, MD, MFA, Selected as a Scholar in the PCCTSD Program

Assistant professor Kate Kernan, MD, MFA, is one of three physician-scientists from across the United States selected as a 2020 Scholar in the prestigious Pediatric Critical Care and Trauma Scientist Development Program (PCCTSDP). The program is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which provides two-year K12 grants to scholars. Dr. Kernan’s research will test the hypothesis that rare immunologically active variants predispose children to acquiring life-threatening infection and developing sepsis-related organ dysfunction. 

“Kate is taking a novel, targeted approach to next generation gene sequencing technology to unlock the genetic underpinnings that impact outcome in severe sepsis,” said Robert Clark, MD, who is vice chair of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP). “Her work has the potential to identify individualized interventions for children vulnerable to the consequences of severe sepsis and to begin life-saving treatment much earlier.”

Specifically, Dr. Kernan’s grant aims to define the cumulative incidence of monogenic inborn errors of immunity (IEI) in genes encoding aspects of coagulation, inflammation and innate and adaptive immunity in a cohort of nearly 330 severe pediatric sepsis patients. Along with colleagues, Dr. Kernan intends to determine if rare IEI are associated with specific patient characteristics including laboratory profile, organ failure pattern, cytokine response or long-term outcome.

She has conscripted a first-rate and complementary mentorship team that includes Joseph Carcillo, MD (primary mentor) and John Kellum, MD from the Department of Critical Care Medicine as well as Jerry Vockley, MD, PhD, division chief of Clinical Genetics, director of Rare Disease Research, and Endowed Cleveland Family Chair of Pediatric Research, and Scott Canna, MD from the departments of Rheumatology and Immunology, they are both from CHP; and Hyun Jung Park, PhD, a computer scientist in the Department of Human Genetics at the Graduate School of Public Health.

The PCCTSDP is a national faculty training program—based at the University of Utah—that develops successful pediatric critical care and pediatric trauma physician scientists. Its goal is to increase the number of highly trained, successfully funded, and sustainable pediatric critical care and pediatric trauma physician-scientists who will conduct research to enhance the scientific understanding, clinical management, and long-term outcome of critical illness and trauma in children. 

Dr. Kernan joined the Department of Critical Care Medicine in 2018 after completing her Pediatric Critical Care Medicine fellowship at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She completed residency in Pediatrics at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and graduated with an MD from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Fine Arts from New England College, and BA in Biology from the College of the Holy Cross.