By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura Shopp didn’t realize it at first, but so many of her experiences, both personal and professional over the years, have been leading her to Riley Children’s Health.
Dr. Shopp is Riley’s newest preventive cardiologist on the cardiovascular team.
She’s not new to Riley or IU Health. Or Indianapolis for that matter. The native Hoosier, who graduated from Cathedral High School, went to Boston College for her undergrad degree but returned to Indiana for medical school at Indiana University.
She completed her residency in general pediatrics at Riley, followed by four years of fellowship training in cardiology.
In that time, she also got married and had a daughter, Josephine, born just as the pandemic was unfolding in April 2020. Her husband, Jacob, is an emergency medicine physician.
The daughter of two physicians (her mother still practices, while her cardiologist father passed away following a heart attack when his daughter was 14), Dr. Shopp seems born into her current role.
A lover of science, kids, physics and the heart, she put all of that together to figure out her path in life. But not without a little help.
One of the giants in the field of cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. John Brown, helped her secure a summer internship when she was a young medical student. She was in awe then, watching a team of physicians and practitioners in action, and it reaffirmed her choice to specialize in cardiology.
“I spent that summer in the operating room with Dr. Brown. I remember being in the room with all these cardiovascular surgeons, and I was just amazed.”
Now that she has completed her training, she is no less amazed by her colleagues’ passion for medicine and for kids’ health.
“I’m proud that there are so many passionate providers and physicians here,” she said. “They are passionate about keeping kids healthy, giving them a good quality of life and teaching the next generation of doctors. What more important work could you do?”
Working in that environment and seeing the dedication all around her is contagious, she said.
“You want to be just like them.”
Riley’s cardiovascular and heart surgery program is ranked No. 6 in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings, so Dr. Shopp said she knew it would be a good fit.
She credits her mentor, Dr. Jacqueline Maiers, with guiding her in her training in preventive cardiology, which focuses on the management of hypertension and abnormal cholesterol.
“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States,” she said. “We know that high blood pressure and cholesterol can lead to heart attack and stroke, and there’s a huge proportion of people who go on to develop this disease.”
And evidence suggests these risk factors can be detected in early childhood, she added.
All children should have their cholesterol screened before and after puberty. That’s important because once it is identified, it can be treated, whether that be through medication, lifestyle changes or both.
Genetics can play a role in some patients’ propensity for hypertension, but that doesn’t mean families and caregivers can’t do more to ensure kids grow up as healthy as they can be.
That’s why IU Health and Riley are expanding the cardiology program in Indiana to promote healthier lifestyles for children so they can go on to become healthy adults.
It can be challenging to compete with today’s emphasis on fast food, video games, phones and television for youth, but Dr. Shopp meets patients where they are.
“When I meet a new patient, I will ask what they do after school or what they do for fun,” she said.
If they say they play soccer or swim or spend a lot of time on their phones, she knows where she is starting in terms of helping them.
“It’s important to me that people know there is no judgment when they come in. I never want to take away stuff people love or things they’re good at.”
Rather, it’s all about variety and moderation. That includes diet. And that’s where the entire cardiology team comes into play, particularly dietitians who work with families to support healthy eating.
“Cardiology is very much a team approach,” said Dr. Shopp, who sees a lot of patients with congenital heart defects in clinic each week. “As a field, there is so much to do, from seeing patients to reading ECHOs and EKGs to planning for surgeries. We see a lot of kids.”
And each child deserves the time and care that the whole team brings to bear, she said.
It can be a heavy load for any one person, which is why the young physician takes time to care for herself as well. She practices yoga several times a week, something she started during the pandemic.
She also plays piano, a skill she learned growing up and one she believes sharpened her mind as a child and calms her now as an adult.
“I play piano sometimes at night when Josephine goes to bed and my husband is working the night shift. I’m passionate about music. Medicine is extremely personal for me … but when I play music or do yoga, that’s my time to not think about medicine at all,” she said.
“I think you need that time. It’s really good for me.”
Photos submitted and by Maureen Gilmer, email@example.com