Member Spotlight: Dr. Ken Carlson’s OPS Leadership Journey
In September, Dr. Ken Carlson, of Childhood Health Associates of Salem, will be resigning from the OPS Board, “to create space for new and diverse voices.” He is excited to see the increased member engagement during this past year, even as pediatric providers battle the pandemic.
Dr. Carlson’s fingerprints can be found throughout OPS. He has held positions on the OPS board since 2008, serving as President, six years on the Executive Committee, Chair of OPS’s CME program committee and one of our first in-clinic trainers, and even stand-in Executive Director. Dr. Carlson currently heads the Pediatric Council and co-leads a new QI project on Anxiety. This month Cheryl Matushak, OPS Membership Manager, interviewed Dr. Carlson to learn more about his pediatric journey
Kenneth Carlson grew up in the Silicon Valley and was headed down the computer science path, like so many others of his generation and geography. Then in high school he suffered some injuries as a track and field athlete and found himself working with a physical therapist. This opened a whole new world of muscles, tendons, and the rest of the human anatomy, which ultimately led Dr. Carlson to medicine. His experience working with kids as a YMCA day camp counselor left Ken no doubt that it would be pediatrics or nothing. He has never looked back.
After graduating from Baylor College of Medicine, Ken went to New Mexico with his physician wife, Deborah, for her psychiatric fellowship. The Carlsons set their sights on the Northwest once the fellowship was complete –Deborah had interviewed in Oregon along the way and was drawn to its natural beauty – and Ken found a home at Childhood Health Associates of Salem. The founder of the clinic, Dr. James Lace, encouraged Ken to broaden his exposure to other pediatricians and introduced him to Oregon Pediatric Society.
Dr. Carlson quickly realized that his interest in technology would serve him well as he implemented tools such as EMRs. He also found a passion in Quality Improvement and worked with chapter leaders Drs. Dave Willis and Greg Blaschke to get the chapter rebooted after some challenging times. Ken was instrumental in creating START (Screening Tools and Referral Training), a statewide clinical training and Quality Improvement initiative of OPS, promoting the highest standard of care and practice change in primary care.
Dr. Carlson has also been involved in work at the national level, recently completing his term on the AAP’s Committee on Child Health Financing. He appreciates the AAP’s dual mission of advocating for pediatric providers, while also keeping their focus on children’s health, which he considers a unique mission compared to many professional organizations. And while Ken may be reducing his time on boards and committees so he can enjoy more time with his family and his self-described “nerdy” culture of science fiction, comic books, and video games, he assures OPS that he plans to stay engaged. After all he says, “I’m never short on opinions.”