Department of Pediatrics welcomes Hara Levy as chief of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine

Hara Levy, MD, MMSc, chief of the Division of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine
Above, Hara Levy, MD, MMSc, chief of the Division of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine

The University of Wisconsin Department of Pediatrics enthusiastically welcomes new faculty member Hara Levy, MD, MMSc.

Levy joined the faculty in May 2022 as a professor of pediatrics. She also takes on the roles of chief of the Division of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine, and co-director of UW Health’s Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Center. A deeply engaged physician-scientist with a record of nearly 20 years of NIH-funded studies, Levy focuses her research investigations on the genomic basis of pulmonary diseases, particularly factors that may influence the severity, disease course, and treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF). In addition, she is interested in better understanding and improving the transition from pediatric to adult care, as well as diagnostic dilemmas and healthcare disparities.

What do you want to be?” As a young girl in New Jersey, Hara Levy answered that question early on: she was enchanted and completely hooked by science. In high school, she was lucky enough to attend the renowned Summer Student Program at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, where students participate in an ongoing research program with the support of an experienced scientific mentor. Recounted Levy, “It was real science—exactly what I wanted and needed right then.” A clear path to a career in scientific research and medicine opened before her. She never looked back.

Following the advice of her Jackson Lab mentor, Levy attended Stanford University, enrolling in its coterminal bachelor’s and master’s degree program in biological sciences. The focused, comprehensive program allowed her to complete all work for both degrees in five years, and her early genetic research work on T cells became the basis of her later research. Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin provided the path to her medical degree, as well as her internship in that institution’s combined internal medicine-pediatrics residency program.

The decade after her residency saw Levy deepening her clinical experience and expanding her expertise: two years as a Pediatric Scientist Development Training program fellow in genetics at the Seidman’s Lab at Harvard Medical School, and a two-year clinical fellowship in pediatric pulmonology at Boston Children’s Hospital. Levy then completed a Master of Medical Sciences (MMSc) degree at Harvard Medical School while also serving as an instructor of pediatric pulmonology with Harvard Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics. During this period, Levy was awarded her first NIH funding for a K23, R21 and an NIH Innovator’s award as Principal Investigator, the first of what would become her strong continuing record of such funded projects.

Levy’s formal education was complete. From 2007 to early 2015, she served as assistant, then associate professor of pediatrics in the division of pulmonary medicine in the Medical College of Wisconsin. She continued there as adjunct professor even after she was recruited to join the faculty of Northwestern University as a dually appointed associate professor of pediatrics and medicine. She became Director of Research in pulmonary medicine in March 2015.

During her tenure at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Levy met Phillip Farrell, MD, PhD, emeritus dean and professor of pediatrics and population health sciences at SMPH, which led to her working with him on research teams for nine CF studies over the next decade. The first study was published in 2011. Her robust research record resulted in frequent invitations for presentations and workshops (28 from 2003 to date). Her latest presentation was an SMPH Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds offering in late May 2022.

In 2019, National Jewish Health (NJH) in Denver recruited Levy to be associate professor of pediatrics and division head of pediatric pulmonology. Established in 1899, NJH is a leading treatment and research facility for respiratory, cardiac, immune, and related disorders. For the two and half years she was there, Levy worked in concert with leadership to further develop and strengthen NJH’s new and growing pediatric clinical and research programs. A clinical unit she helped establish, the Pediatric Acute Respiratory Care Clinic, advanced further with efforts of allergy-immunology faculty and staff into the Covid Assessment Program.

SMPH’s Department of Pediatrics actively recruited Levy from NJH, and she accepted the position in late 2021, happy to return to the Midwest and the opportunity to serve the department. “This department is a gem of pediatric medicine,” explained Levy. “Its intellectual and resource dedication is not simply expressed in words but is markedly evident in its every action. Several of its divisions are the best or nearly the best in the country.”

She enthusiastically anticipates increasing the department’s clinical and research capacity, adding, “I know I will be able to further develop my own research as well as the division’s, and I look forward to establishing a center for precision medicine, with a pediatric pulmonology disease specific genetics panel.”

In addition to her superlative work in the epidemiology of CF, Levy brings to the department her innovative ideas for program development and for creating the first-in-the-nation cradle to adulthood pulmonary medicine program. Such a program’s focus would be improving the often-difficult transition for patients from pediatric care to adult medical services. The entire Department of Pediatrics is very happy to now count Dr. Hara Levy as one of its own.