Investigator Profile: Karla Leavens

Consortium: CBDS

Project: Investigation of the Role of HNF1A in Increasing Susceptibility to Type 1 Diabetes

NIH NIDDK Emerging Leaders Recipient








Where are you from originally, and where did you go to school?

I grew up in Delaware, went to Dartmouth College for undergrad and University of Pennsylvania for my MD/PhD.

►What is your current position?

Instructor in the Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

►Why did you decide to become a researcher?

I have been interested in the natural world since I was a child, so biology was a clear choice for me early on. In college, I was drawn towards learning about human physiology and disease, which lead to my desire to become a physician scientist. Though I do enjoy taking care of patients, I hope to ultimately have a greater impact for my patients through research focused on understanding the pathophysiology of disease and contributing to therapeutic development.

►What is the “Big Picture” of what you study?

I want to understand how specific genetic factors, currently the transcription factor HNF1A, contribute to beta cell failure by increasing susceptibility to immune destruction and cellular dysfunction and death.

►What is your favorite aspect of your research?

I love being able to tell my patients with diabetes that I am doing laboratory research that I hope will have significant implications for their disease during our lifetimes. 

► What do you hope to achieve with your research?

We are starting to have a very good understanding of what causes type 1 diabetes generally on a population level. I hope that my research contributes to our understanding of what causes type 1 diabetes on an individual level due to the interactions of their specific genetic predispositions and surrounding environment.

► What groups are you involved with?

Pediatric Endocrine Society, specific the Research Affairs Committee Philadelphia Endocrine Society American Association of Pediatrics HIRN, CHIB through my lab.

►When not in the lab what are your favorite hobbies/activities?

As a child and young adult, I traveled throughout most of the United States and have been to most of the national parks in the country. I look forward to traveling with my family in the future and sharing these experiences with my son as he gets older. Right now, relaxing with a glass of wine and knitting is as good as it gets (which is honestly still pretty good).






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