Susanna Scafidi joined the Johns Hopkins PICU in 2012 after working at the University of Maryland for 7 years. As a critical care physician, she treats all types of critically ill children and provides postoperative care. She considers it to be fascinating and challenging work. A patient’s physiologic condition can change suddenly and rapidly, so she must be vigilant, anticipating adverse situations and preempting them when possible. She is in charge of a multidisciplinary group of caregivers, but she is also dependent on them. The nurses and respiratory therapists are extremely important because they act as the eyes, ears, and hands of the team. Each person has 100% trust in the other members of the team, making care a true team effort.
Dr. Scafidi is fascinated by the brain. Brain injury in a developing child is very different from that in an adult. Injury in an adult usually causes a focal deficit. However, because a child’s brain is still growing, it might compensate or it might not develop to its full potential. Although the brain controls other organs, it depends on the rest of the body for survival because it doesn’t have its own nutrient supply. Normal brain function depends on glucose, but glucose metabolism decreases after traumatic brain injury (TBI). In some studies, researchers have tried supplying more glucose, but it turns out that hyperglycemia is associated with worse outcome. In her research, Dr. Scafidi is trying to determine what nutrients to provide after TBI. For example, she has found that the injured brain hemisphere utilizes fatty acids significantly more than the uninjured side does. She would like to be able to monitor the brain’s utilization of nutrients and adjust supplementation accordingly. Nutrient support guidelines are currently very vague, and she would like to improve them in ways that will support brain metabolism. The brain has many regional differences in its ability to use glucose, ketones, and fats. Some cells can utilize fats, and others cannot, but the cells are interdependent on each other. Thus, brain metabolism is very intricate, and Dr. Scafidi is trying to sort out the complexity.
Susanna Scafidi earned her medical degree at Samarkand State Medical School in Uzbekistan in 1995. She then did her pediatric residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (Newark campus). She continued her training with a clinical fellowship in pediatric critical care (2001 to 2004) and a research fellowship (2004 to 2005) at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York.