Story by: David Steen Martin on July 22, 2021
Treating children with asthma, cystic fibrosis and other respiratory conditions, Erica Stevens, M.D., MPH, gets to see her patients and their families over months and years.
This ongoing relationship with patients and their families is a big reason why she chose pediatric pulmonology as her specialty.
“The interactions I have with families are very rewarding,” said Dr. Stevens, a pediatric pulmonologist with Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville medical school.
In addition to the connection she’s able to establish with families, Dr. Stevens enjoys the attention to detail required to manage sometimes highly complex patients or diseases.
“It helps to know I’m making a difference, even if it’s a small difference,” she said.
Dr. Stevens has a particular interest in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), a chronic lung condition affecting some babies born prematurely. She is working with Norton Children’s Neonatology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, to help ensure these infants have the best outcomes.
Encouragement from their mother motivated Dr. Stevens and her older sister, Amanda Stevens-Udeze, to become physicians. Dr. Stevens’ sister is an endocrinologist outside of Indianapolis, Indiana.
“My mom was a big motivating factor during my childhood,” said Dr. Stevens, who grew up in Evansville, Indiana. Dr. Stevens’ father died when she was young, and her mother supported the family by working factory jobs.
“She always threatened to ground us if we didn’t get straight A’s. I’m not sure she would have, but it meant a lot that someone loved us so much to have such high standards for us.”
According to Dr. Stevens, her interest in becoming a doctor started when she was a young girl.
“I think the spark was there pretty early on,” she said, adding that she always liked science. “My one goal in life was to somehow provide service back to the community in some way.”
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Her first role model was her family physician growing up. He entertained children with Donald Duck impersonations, putting them at ease, so doctor visits were enjoyable, not scary. In high school and college, Dr. Stevens volunteered at her local hospital in the emergency department, helping with triage and transporting patients in the hospital.
Dr. Stevens attended medical school at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana, before completing her training in pediatrics at the University of Louisville. Following pediatric residency training, she completed a fellowship in pediatric pulmonology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Stevens became interested in pediatric pulmonology in her final year of medical school. She liked that pediatric pulmonologists perform airway procedures called bronchoscopies and that she would be able treat children with a wide range of conditions in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.
“I especially liked that you get to develop long-lasting relationships with patients and their families,” she said.
Coming back to Louisville was like coming home, according to Dr. Stevens. She has family nearby, and, in Louisville, she said, people are friendly and laid-back.
Dr. Stevens is married to a personal trainer, and she enjoys boxing, weightlifting, cooking and spending time with her two rescue dogs.