By Amanda Hancock
When Dr. Sara Saporta-Keating joined Children’s Hospital Colorado in 2019, it marked a first.
She became the Colorado Springs area’s first pediatric epidemiologist.
Despite the impressive feat, Saporta-Keating would often get some version of this question about her title: “What does that mean?”
That started to change when conversations began about the COVID pandemic.
“All of the sudden everyone knew what infectious disease specialty was and what epidemiology was,” Saporta-Keating says.
And suddenly, her work became front and center.
“At the time, we could not have known just how important she would become, not just to our hospital, but to our entire community, to keep our kids healthy and treat those who became ill,” says Greg Raymond, Children’s Hospital Colorado Southern Region president. “It is fair to say that Dr. Saporta-Keating’s efforts have literally saved children’s lives in the Colorado Springs community.”
Saporta-Keating knew from a young age that she wanted to be a doctor. When it came to pediatrics, “I was just like, this is what I wanted to do,” she says. “Kids are much better to treat and more fun than adults.”
"We came together at a really solid time.”
She went to University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill for undergrad, then medical school at University of South Florida. She found an interest in studying infectious diseases because the work involved a mix of “every-day cases, head scratchers and the unusual.”
Under the “unusual” category, Saporta-Keating studied global
“It’s something people talk about theoretically,” she says. “And then it happened.”
Saporta-Keating describes the early weeks of the pandemic as “surreal” and a “whirlwind,” as her team
navigated the first COVID cases in Colorado Springs.
“It was a huge learning experience for us as a newer hospital,” she says. “We came together at a really solid time.”
In addition to treating kids who got sick during the pandemic, Saporta-
Keating engaged in many media interviews and public appearances with the goal of educating people about COVID.
“I’m a mom, too,” she says. “So I thought it was important to talk as an infectious diseases specialist and a mom, to relate to people in that way.”
Saporta-Keating then led the hospital’s response to the recent “tridemic” of COVID, the flu and RSV, says Raymond. She also implemented treatment protocols for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, an illness known as MIS-C that has resulted from COVID and can cause inflammation of the heart, lung, blood vessels, kidneys, brain, skin or eyes.
Later this year, Saporta-Keating is scheduled to give a talk about congenital syphilis prevention to judges, child advocates and guardians ad litem as part of an event organized by the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. The goal, according to Raymond, is to help providers who work with expectant mothers to offer crucial information about “this serious, life-changing disease in children and what they need to do to prevent it.”
“Dr. Saporta-Keating works tirelessly to provide health-enhancing and life-saving information to all members of our community, including and especially communities of color, who face higher rates of conditions such as severe COVID-19 and congenital syphilis,” says Raymond. “As an advocate for everyone — in the case of congenital syphilis, even the unborn — Dr. Saporta-Keating is passionate about providing all members of our community with the care they need to get well and the information they need to stay healthy.”
In the past few years, Saporta-Keating has learned the importance of rest and spending time with family, including her 5-year-old child. She also learned just how much she enjoys her work.
She hopes, though, that COVID is the “biggest thing I see in my career.”