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Faculty Spotlight: Palen Powelson Mallory, MD

Monday, October 11, 2021
Palen Powelson Mallory, MD

According to Palen Mallory, MD, pediatric critical care medicine is a rewarding and interesting field. It is fast paced and keeps her on her toes, and she learns new things every day. She finds the physiology fascinating, with a diverse patient population and wide range of pathology. She also finds the environment in the PICU to be very conducive to collaboration with others as a multidisciplinary team. Importantly, she loves that she has the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of children and their families.

How long have you been at Duke? How did you decide to come here? 
I have been at Duke for just over 3 years. I finished fellowship in 2018, and as a graduating fellow, I was looking for a place that would offer me an excellent clinical experience, clinical research opportunities, mentorship, as well as proximity to family and employment opportunities for my husband. Duke offered all of this and was the perfect fit.

What are your current responsibilities in the Department of Pediatrics? What does your typical day look like?
The majority of my time at work is spent on clinical service in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Taking care of patients in the ICU, while simultaneously teaching fellows and residents, is my favorite part of my job. There is no typical day in the ICU! You never know what is going to happen next.

How and when did you initially become interested in medicine? What made you decide to pursue a career in pediatric critical care medicine in particular?
I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I realized I wanted to be a physician. My parents are both physicians, so I have many memories of our family sitting around the dinner table talking about what they did at work that day. Maybe that swayed me! When I started college (at Duke!) pursuing a pre-med path felt like the natural next step for me.

What do you see as the biggest current challenges and opportunities in the field of pediatric critical care medicine?
So many of our treatment strategies in pediatric critical care have been based off of adult research. But we all know that kids are not small adults! This means that the field is ripe with opportunities for research and trials examining treatments and outcomes in critically ill children.

Can you tell us about the research you are currently involved in? 
When I am not in the ICU, you can find me doing work related to one of the several multicenter pediatric critical care trials and research collaboratives for which I am the Duke site primary investigator. My interests include pediatric acute respiratory distress syndrome, and the use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for acute respiratory failure.

Who was your most significant mentor and what knowledge did you gain through collaboration?
My fellowship director at Vanderbilt, Geoffrey Fleming, has been an important influence in my life. I often find myself reciting his chalk talks and sharing his pearls of knowledge with my trainees. He was a great teacher, research collaborator, and source of moral support. He encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and gain confidence as a trainee. I credit much of my personal and professional growth through my fellowship years to him. Unfortunately he recently passed away from cancer at the young age of 50. Teaching was his passion, and he will continue to live on through the hundreds of medical students, residents and fellows who learned from him.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Pediatric critical care medicine is such a rewarding and interesting field. It is fast paced and keeps me on my toes, and I learn new things every day. The physiology is fascinating, with a diverse patient population and wide range of pathology. The environment in the PICU is very conducive to collaboration with others as a multidisciplinary team, which I enjoy. Additionally, I love that I have the opportunity to make a very meaningful difference in the lives of children and their families.

Do you have any advice for trainees?
When you chose your career path, make sure it is something that you love. You want to enjoy coming to work every day. And don’t forget to take time for yourself to spend with your family and pursue interests outside of work. Work life balance is important!

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?  
Does driving kids around to activities count? We have three children, Adeline (5 years), James (2 years) and Mabel (8 months). During my free time, what I love the most is to spend time with my family. I love watching my children grow and develop, and I am thankful every day for their good health.