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Dr. Sarah M. Stelzner

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1967

Medical School

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine



Career Path

Pediatric medicine
Dr. Sarah M. Stelzner


I became a doctor to have a small part in the healthy development of children, families, and communities.


Sarah Stelzner, M.D., brings her cultural heritage into her work. As a woman of Mexican Nicaraguan heritage who spent part of her childhood in Latin America, her ability to speak Spanish, and understand cultural differences, greatly enhances the trust and communication between her and her patients. Dr. Stelzner has used these skills while training in primary care at the University of California, San Francisco, serving patients in the Mission district at San Francisco General Hospital, and volunteering in the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic.

Born in La Paz, Bolivia, in 1967, Sarah Margarita Stelzner was raised in Latin America, California, and New Mexico, and was continually exposed to a variety of cultures. As a student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, she volunteered at a juvenile detention center and completed an honor's thesis on Hispanic health issues, graduating magna cum laude in 1989.

She developed her interest in bringing health care to the underserved during medical school at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, where she earned her doctor of medicine degree in 1993. In 1998 Stelzner joined the Indiana University School of Medicine faculty as a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics. She directs the child advocacy rotation for second-year residents, organizes a yearly multidisciplinary health education project in Calnali, Mexico, and serves a rapidly growing Hispanic community at Wishard Memorial Hospital, Indianapolis.

She has a special interest is promoting cultural competency in the medical school, and does this by lecturing on cultural factors that affect health status, access to care, and outcomes for Hispanic patients.

Dr. Stelzner has co-led a collaborative initiative at Indiana University funded by a Dyson Foundation grant. She was one of the principal investigators of an initiative to broaden the training pediatric residents from a "medical-only" to a "medical home model," emphasizing family-centered, community-based coordinated health care systems that are culturally appropriate and effective. The Indiana University program has been responsible for training more than 85 percent of all practicing pediatricians in Indiana.

Dr. Stelzner is married to neonatologist David Ingram. She is the mother of their two preteen boys, and a veteran of the Boston Marathon. In 1996, while she was a resident at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Stelzner won the Moses Grossman Award for Senior Resident Who Best Combines Excellence in Academics and Service to the Underserved. She also received the National Hispanic Leadership Fellowship in Hispanic Health Policy in 2001.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Luckily, I have had wonderful family and peer support in my training. There have been no major obstacles besides passing my classes in medical school!

How do I make a difference?

I try to give each family a little more than just routine well-child care, whether it be resources in the community, help negotiating a complicated medical system, or a ride home when it is raining.

Who was my mentor?

My mentors have been my parents who have always given time and energy for their community and John Takayama, M.D., who has generously given me his time and sage advice.

How has my career evolved over time?

The M.D. degree gives me the flexibility to decide what I want to do with my career. I can see patients, teach, or become involved in eliminating health disparities through work in the community. It has evolved into a very satisfying and challenging yet flexible career path.

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