Specialized infectious diseases care for kids who need organ transplants

Victoria Statler, M.D., offers a relatively new subspecialty at Norton Children’s —transplant infectious diseases care.

Victoria A. Statler, M.D., M.S., offers specialized care in a relatively new field: pediatric transplant infectious diseases.

Dr. Statler, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, educates children undergoing solid organ and stem cell transplants and their caregivers on ways to avoid potentially dangerous infections. She and other providers on the pediatric transplant infectious diseases team also treat them if they get sick. Her work also carries into mechanical circulatory support, hematologic malignancies and CAR-T cell therapy if necessary.

Working with teams across Norton Children’s, Dr. Statler helps assess the infection risks of transplant candidates and potential donors. Infections she may treat in the transplant candidate or recipient include, but are not limited to, fungal, viral and parasitic infections; C. difficile colitis; and drug-resistant bacterial infections.

“I do a lot of education upfront so children and their families know what to expect and how their lives may or may not change after transplant,” Dr. Statler said.

Physicians at Norton Children’s Hospital perform heart, kidney and bone marrow transplants.

Dr. Statler gives these children who receive heart, kidney and bone marrow transplants and their families safer-living strategies to navigate their changed world — including specialized vaccine schedules and advice on which pets pose less of an infection risk.

Dr. Statler is director of the Norton Children’s Hospital pediatric transplant infectious diseases service, which she developed in 2015. She also participates in the Norton Children’s Heart Transplant Clinic at the Novak Center for Children’s Health. The multidisciplinary clinic provides a team-based approach to post-transplant care for patients of Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. A similar clinic treats dialysis and kidney transplant patients of Norton Children’s Nephrology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

Dr. Statler became interested in infectious diseases as a specialty when she was a senior in college. While she was hospitalized with an autoimmune disorder, an infectious diseases doctor suggested she consider specializing in infectious diseases when she got to medical school. Dr. Statler followed his advice.

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During her first year at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Dr. Statler did a monthlong rotation with the pediatric infectious diseases team at Norton Children’s Hospital.

“I loved how an infectious diseases physician was like a detective, sorting out details to put together the bigger picture, not focusing on just one organ system, and seeing many different patients throughout the hospital,” Dr. Statler said. “The medicine, the patients and the people who practice infectious diseases — it was all a perfect fit for me.”

After completing her medical training in pediatrics at the University of Louisville and a pediatric infectious diseases fellowship, Dr. Statler joined the University of Louisville faculty. She is currently an associate professor.

In addition to her work with children undergoing transplants, Dr. Statler spends part of her time treating children with infectious diseases who are not part of the transplant program.

“With some patients, we help figure out the cause of the infection; when the cause of an infection is known, we’re called in to help determine the best way to treat them,” Dr. Statler said.

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