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Dr. Karen Schulder Rheuban

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1949

Medical School

Ohio State University College of Medicine



Career Path

Pediatric medicine: Cardiology
Education: Teaching
Dr. Karen Schulder Rheuban


My father's diagnosis of lymphoma during my early adolescence played a role in my interest in a career in the health professions. I was encouraged to pursue a career in medicine by my parents, despite the relative paucity and hardships endured by women physicians of the generation that preceded mine.


Dr. Karen Rheuban is playing a key role in 21st-century medicine, using telemedicine to provide the best health care had to offer to rural communities. In essence, she can electronically transport key personnel to a remote operating room or bedside, so that a specialist surgeon can consult from afar during an operation, a dermatologist can offer a second opinion to a local hospital, or a cardiologist can use tele-echocardiography to help determine a diagnosis.

Born in Jamaica, New York, in 1949, pediatric cardiologist Karen Rheuban graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1974. She is currently the medical director of the University of Virginia Office of Telemedicine, part of a team that, using this remarkable tool, saved a 2-day-old baby's life on New Year's Day 2000. When the newborn's abnormal echocardiogram was transmitted from the cardiologist at the Winchester Medical Center to Dr. Rheuban at the University of Virginia, some 130 miles south, she was able to spot a very rare, imminently life-threatening but treatable cardiac defect in the newborn. Her specialty training and expertise in pediatric cardiology was vital for the diagnosis.

In addition to providing direct clinical services to patients, Dr. Rheuban oversees a large continuing medical education program, accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. This program takes advantage of traditional and cutting-edge technology, offering on-site lectures, videoconferencing, computer-assisted instructional materials, and interactive web-based multimedia programs.

Dr. Rheuban's research interests include pediatric cardiology, congenital heart disease, telemedicine applied to rural health care, tele-echocardiography, and school telehealth. In addition to many educational programs in the United States, she has coordinated mini-fellowship programs in the People's Republic of China and for Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Dr. Rheuban is a professor of pediatrics (pediatric cardiology), senior associate dean for continuing medical education and external affairs at the School of Medicine, and medical director of the University of Virginia Office of Telemedicine. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and of the American College of Cardiology, and a member of the American Telemedicine Association. She was selected by her peers for inclusion in the first edition of The Best Doctors in America: Southeast Region, 1996-1997, and is listed on the 2002 Best Doctors in America database. She and her physician husband have two sons and a daughter.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

In truth, I never was aware of any obstacle to pursuing my dream of becoming a physician. I was fortunate to have attended medical school with my husband, William Rheuban. Our careers developed on parallel tracks and we have done all possible to support and facilitate one another in this process, despite what at times can be a relatively chaotic lifestyle.

As a physician in an academic setting, my initial career focused on teaching and clinical service full time. My personal process of promotion and tenure was somewhat lengthier than that experienced by a number of my male colleagues. My husband and I chose to begin our family shortly after finishing our fellowship training and the demands of raising a young family (three children in three years)—our priority—along with the demands of clinical service—required that many of my scholarly pursuits be deferred. However, once the children became school aged, my capacity to pursue such research and scholarly activities increased. A revision of our promotions and tenure document, which included rewards for diverse scholarly activities, and recognition of teaching in the promotions process, contributed to my ability to achieve promotion to professor of pediatrics with tenure.

How do I make a difference?

As a pediatric cardiologist, I try to make a difference by being available to and sensitive and supportive of my patients and their families, who face the frightening and serious hardships of congenital heart disease. As an administrator (medical director of Telemedicine), I have tried to impact the well being of our rural constituents by enhancing access to health care services and health-related distance learning. In this regard, I have been honored to play a role as an advocate for telehealth-related issues, in federal and state policy arenas. In all this, I hope to serve as a role model to students and young physicians.

Who was my mentor?

I have had many mentors, all who have contributed to my professional development. My mother, Ruth Schulder, has been my most admired role model, in her tenacious ability to raise a family, pursue a career and lead a gracious well-rounded life. Martha Carpenter, M.D., has served as my clinical mentor. No one surpasses her skills as a pediatric cardiologist. Robert Carey, M.D., the longest standing dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, remains another cherished mentor. His leadership and trust allowed me to develop my professional and leadership skills. In the arena of advocacy, Congressman Rick Boucher has provided me with unwavering mentorship in the process of implementing policy change.

How has my career evolved over time?

Having joined the University of Virginia School of Medicine faculty as a full time clinician-educator, my career has evolved in unexpected and unplanned ways, in part because of colleagues who have offered me opportunities for professional development and challenges. In my capacity as associate dean for continuing medical education and medical director of telemedicine, I have been honored to play a small advocacy role in federal legislation (Congressional testimony), Federal Communications Commission policy, and national society activities, all of which have been exceptionally rewarding.