During her pediatric residency at the University of Chicago, Keila N. Lopez knew she wanted to develop clinical expertise in one area: she fell in love with pediatric cardiology. She was all set to become a cardiology fellow at Texas Children’s Hospital, but a feeling kept nagging at her — she wanted to help more than one patient at a time.
So before starting her fellowship, Dr. Lopez earned a Master of Public Health degree in health care administration and minority health policy through the Commonwealth Fund at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. With encouragement from mentors at Harvard and Texas Children’s, she merged her two loves, public health and pediatric cardiology, and began a career dedicated to recognizing and eliminating health inequities associated with congenital heart disease (CHD).
Recognizing her outstanding work to overcome health inequities in pediatric CHD patients and help transition pediatric patients into adult care, the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) has named Keila Natilde Lopez, MD, MPH, the 2021 Paul V. Miles (PVM) Fellow.
Dr. Lopez is Assistant Professor in the Baylor College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Section of Pediatric Cardiology at Texas Children’s Hospital. She has published more than 30 peer-reviewed articles and is a frequent speaker at national and international medical conferences and seminars.
She is known not only as a medical expert, though. She is revered as a patient advocate, according to Amy Basken, Senior Director of Programs at Conquering CHD and the parent of a child with CHD.
“Dr. Lopez understands what matters most to patients and families — to be actively involved in their own care,” Basken wrote in a letter supporting Dr. Lopez’ nomination for the PVM fellowship. “A large portion of her work is dedicated to directly improving quality and outcomes in the lives of patients and families through educational programming and curriculum development.”
In her nomination letter, Shreya Sheth, MD, Assistant Professor, Pediatric Cardiology, and Co-Director for Quality, Outcomes, and Patient Safety, Texas Children’s Hospital Heart Center, says Dr. Lopez is committed to improving quality and access to care for underserved populations.
“Dr. Lopez is internationally recognized for identifying, describing, and intervening on health disparities from fetal life throughout the lifespan to adulthood, as well as for establishing one of the only in-person cardiology transition programs in the country,” Dr. Sheth writes.
Dr. Lopez says her training in minority health policies and disparities prepared her to help meet the needs of minority patients in the CHD community and for Hispanics in particular during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a member of Houston’s COVID-19 Health Equity Response Task Force, she advised the Mayor’s office about specific outreach strategies for the Hispanic community.
As part of the PVM Fellowship, Dr. Lopez will give grand rounds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at Duke University medical schools and will speak to ABP staff about her work.
“I feel lucky every day to do the work that I do because I’m so passionate about it,” says Dr. Lopez. “I’m honored that this award may help my work inform the work of future pediatricians.”