Kara Loren Raphael is making waves

Kara Loren Raphael, MD

Kara Loren Raphael, MD

Kara Loren Raphael, MD is making waves in the health care world. A third-year resident in the J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency Program, Dr. Raphael has already published two articles (click here to see Dr. Raphael’s PubMed page).

After completing her residency training, Dr. Raphael hopes to complete her fellowship in gastroenterology (Emory Division of Digestive Diseases) and pursue an additional fellowship in interventional endoscopy. She is interested in specializing in pancreatology and establishing a career at an academic medical center where she can work with trainees as well as pursue her clinical and research interests.

More about Dr. Raphael

Dr. Raphael completed her undergraduate training at Washington University in St. Louis and was part of the University Scholars Program in Medicine, double-majoring in biology and Spanish. She then attended Emory University School of Medicine. She decided to stay at Emory for her residency training for a variety of reasons, including the program’s compassionate educators, hard-working and capable internal medicine residents, and diverse patient population and training sites.

What has Dr. Raphael learned from her time at Emory?

“My time at Emory has been incredibly formative for me,” Dr. Raphael said. “These have been both the most gratifying and challenging years of my life. During residency, my patients have been the ultimate teachers – they can be so complex pathophysiologically, and they don’t always present the way you’d expect from reading about cases in textbooks. Emory’s medical team has helped me hone my clinical skills to better assess and care for these patients.”

The social aspect and art of medicine have also been crucial to Dr. Raphael’s time as a resident. “The profound effect of socioeconomic status on a patient’s clinical status, hospitalization frequency, and their ability to receive care and care for themselves has made a huge impact on me,” she said. “I believe that, in order to successfully treat a patient, a doctor needs to be aware of the patient’s life circumstances and to try to address the medical problem within this larger context.”

Dr. Raphael has also been learning how to balance the compassion and devotion required of a caregiver with the four ethical pillars of medicine during important medical decision-making.

More about Dr. Raphael’s research

In her third and fourth years of medical school, Dr. Raphael worked on an important Discovery Phase research venture with her mentor, Field Willingham, MD (Division of Digestive Diseases). Their study investigated whether tobacco-smoking is an independent risk factor for pancreatic insufficiency, and it was a big undertaking that Dr. Raphael was committed to seeing through to the end—she also wanted to develop other projects under the tutelage of Dr. Willingham throughout her residency.

This idea came about after the observation that many of Dr. Willingham’s patients who smoke heavily seem to have significantly worse pancreatic disease, and that generally many smokers appear undernourished. Together, Drs. Willingham and Raphael developed a protocol to investigate this hypothesis. Dr. Raphael then spent months interviewing hundreds of patients, collecting and analyzing data, and ultimately presenting and publishing their findings. “To be able to complete a research trial from the ground-up was an incredible experience. It helped me begin to really understand and appreciate the research process from beginning to end, and it definitely piqued my interest in pancreatology,” she said.

Since the completion of the Discovery Phase project, Drs. Raphael and Willingham have started several other projects aimed at understanding different aspects of pancreatitis, including a review on hereditary pancreatitis, a rare, but fascinating, disorder. Currently, Dr. Raphael is working on two pancreas-related research projects with Dr. Willingham–one to evaluate etiologies of idiopathic pancreatitis, and one to define quality-of-life metrics in patients treated for pancreas divisum.

Related Links

More about Emory University Department of Medicine’s residency program 

Emory’s J. Willis Hurst Internal Medicine Residency offers several residency training pathways, including:

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