Some might say an outstanding community pediatrician is a strong advocate who goes the extra mile to meet patients’ needs, while working to improve systems of care that apply to all kids. Our very own pediatrician, David Karas, MD, is being recognized for doing just that with the 2022 Arnold Friedman Community Pediatrician of the Year Award by the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
This award is presented annually to recognize a physician’s effort and dedication in both clinical work and a commitment to serving the community. Dr. Karas was presented the award on Oct. 28 in Columbus.
Dr. Karas is honored for his work as a community advocate to improve vaccination rates, his service as an expert for the Ohio AAP adolescent immunization programs and as medical director of Ambulatory Quality and Clinical Outcomes Improvement at Akron Children’s. In this role, Dr. Karas is responsible for all ambulatory quality improvement projects in the Department of Pediatrics and leading the Primary Care Transformation Project, a hospital-wide project focused on providing all recommended preventative care and increasing the percentage of patients seen annually for well visits.
“I am thrilled Dr. Dave Karas has received this prestigious award and that the Ohio AAP now knows what we have known and enjoyed at Akron Children’s!,” said Michael Forbes, MD, Akron Children’s chief academic officer. “Dave is a quintessential pediatrician, a consummate professional and tireless advocate for children. He is also a gifted improvement scientist and effective clinical leader with a contagious excitement for improving the lives of children, families and communities. We are grateful for his remarkable example.”
Dr. Karas shares more about his achievements and what this award means to him.
What achievements have you made to be an outstanding community pediatrician?
Over the past 8 years, my focus has been on preventative care and it’s twofold: First of all, we want to make sure all kids are seen for their annual well visits. We’ve improved our outreach efforts, such as scheduling well visits at appointments and educating families on the importance of seeing a pediatrician every year.
From there, we’ve worked with our primary care providers to ensure once kids are in our offices, they are getting all the recommended services, such as vaccines and screenings, at those well visits.
The first project we implemented was the Easy Breathing program for kids with asthma. The program standardized screening, diagnosis and treatment for asthma. We traveled to all our primary care offices to train providers. The program not only improved care for kids with asthma, decreasing ER visits and hospitalizations, but it also showed us how to make meaningful changes in our practices across Akron Children’s network.
From there, we implemented all screenings recommended by the AAP that we weren’t consistently doing before. Today, we are screening for depression, substance abuse, social determinants of health, such as food, housing, security, and more. All of our providers are trained on these recommended screenings and are given tools to help guide care, if necessary.
Our focus on quality and standardization has ensured that all kids are getting the best possible care every time they see us.
What work do you still hope to do here?
Our current project is focused on ensuring that adolescents with an elevated Body Mass Index are screened for diabetes, high cholesterol and liver disease. Many of these patients are already prediabetic, and we want to help families make healthy lifestyle changes and prevent significant disease.
The work is never done. While we’re doing a good job screening kids, we now have to make sure we’re doing a good job acting on those results. For example, when we identify a teen with depression, we want to ensure providers have the right tools to get that patient the treatment he needs, such as therapy and/or medication.
What does this award mean to you and your patients?
It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for all the hard work we’ve done here, especially through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s meaningful to know that my peers believe we’re on the right track and we’re actually making an impact on kids’ lives.
What’s the best part about being a community pediatrician?
First of all, I love playing with kids. They’re just fun and life is fun. I love watching kids grow up and seeing kids that I remember meeting as infants, now bringing their own kids in to see me — that’s meaningful.
But, knowing that I’ve made a difference is huge. When I make a cancer diagnosis, obviously it’s heartbreaking, but at the same time, I can intervene to get kids the care they need to save their lives. That’s the best part about this job. I get to do meaningful work, and at the end of each day, I can say I’ve made a difference in kids’ lives.
Get to know Dr. David Karas and call 330-543-2778 to schedule your child’s next well visit.