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Liz Tucker on Improving Outcomes for Children with Tuberculosis Meningitis.


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Liz Tucker on Improving Outcomes for Children with Tuberculosis Meningitis.

Interviewed by Jennifer Wicks
Liz Tucker on Improving Outcomes for Children with Tuberculosis Meningitis.

Liz Tucker is an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and specializes in pediatric critical care in the PICU. Her most current research studies neuroinflammation caused by central nervous system TB, which occurs most commonly in children.

What is the focus of your research?

Tucker: I am currently studying tuberculosis meningitis, which is caused when the bacteria infects the central nervous system. This affects children more often than it does adults. My overarching goal is to improve outcomes for children worldwide with tuberculous meningitis and to reduce the neurologic devastation caused by the infection. Using a young animal model, specifically rabbits, to study the pathogenesis of tuberculosis meningitis, we can characterize the infection by monitoring it over time. We’ve done experiments with imaging and our next steps will be to test treatments for the infection.

What has been the most challenging part of your research?

Tucker: The most challenging part is coming from a clinician’s perspective and delving into the world of basic science research. It’s an interesting learning curve. Looking deeper and further into the pathogenesis and how we can make differences at the bedside has been exciting, but also really challenging. Luckily, I work with great mentors and colleagues who have taught me everything I know.

cellsRabbit brain sections stained for microglia (Iba-1, green) and nuclear staining (DAPI, blue). A) Inactivated, resting microglia in an uninfected brain. B)Activated microglia with large cell bodies and short processes in a TB-infected brain surrounding the Tuberculoma (C).

When did you know that you wanted to work with kids?    

Tucker: I think I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. The question was whether I could work with sick kids and if that would be too sad. I think a lot of people who like working with kids aren’t necessarily prepared to take care of kids that are really sick like my patients. But for me, it came naturally. I come from a family of medical professionals and my mom was a pediatric nurse practitioner, so I always knew the joys of taking care of children. In medical school, I wanted to keep an open mind, but by my fourth year, pediatrics seemed like the clear fit for me.

What advice do you have for incoming residents and fellows who want to work in the field?

Tucker: Children’s ability to bounce back from disease is amazing, so try to emulate their resilience. Learn from each experience, and if you think there is something that could have gone better, take that and implement it to help other children in the future. Also, it’s important to have an open mind and to find a mentor that you think will bring out the best in you. That’s what worked for me. Good mentorship can help get you through any questions or doubts.

Liz Liz Tucker and colleague Mariah Klunk  working with rabbits in a biosafety-level 3 environment.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Tucker: I enjoy going for runs near my home in Canton. Being able to run along the water is great stress relief and makes me feel healthy. So it’s kind of a win-win. I also like to travel, which piqued my interest in global health. I’m lucky to have traveled with my family when I was younger and now I like to experience and learn from different cultures firsthand. I even lived in Chile for nine months before I started medical school.