Dr. Shauna Burkholder | Top 40 Under 40


Age: 38

Job title: Pediatric Critical Care Physician and Medical Director, Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy Program, Alberta Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit  

Why she's a 2017 Top 40 Under 40:

Dr. Burkholder cares for some of the sickest children in southern Alberta, improving their outcomes by introducing new airway-management protocols, including a checklist that has dropped the rate of severe complications from intubation to zero.


photograph by erin brooke burns


Dr. Shauna Burkholder spends her days (and sometimes her nights) with critically ill children, making life-and-death decisions, performing challenging procedures and speaking to distraught parents. Sometimes she celebrates joyous recoveries and sometimes she attends funerals. Her job is difficult by every measure, but to Burkholder, the opportunity to be part of a family’s life at a difficult time is, in itself, a gift. “To experience that with another human being is a real privilege,” Burkholder says. “I think it does make my life a lot richer.”

Burkholder has been a critical care physician in the Alberta Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) since 2010. She has been improving ways to deliver care to her young patients ever since. 

She helped integrate specific services provided by the PICU and Pediatric Nephrology unit to create the Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy Program, of which she is now the medical director. The program provides critically ill kids who have compromised kidney function access to gentle, continuous dialysis from familiar nurses, lowering the physical and emotional stress of the treatment. 

Burkholder also implemented an Airway Guideline Safety Checklist, which streamlines and standardizes the procedure for inserting a breathing tube (intubation). In 2016, Burkholder’s laminated, colour-coded checklist helped to raise her unit’s first-pass intubation success rate from 72 per cent to 96 per cent, while dropping its severe intubation complication rate from seven per cent to zero.

In addition to her clinical work, Burkholder takes part in research related to pediatric critical care and also teaches at the University of Calgary.

In addition to that, she and her husband are the parents of four children under the age of six. Burkholder’s hectic schedule has taught her to loosen her Type-A tendencies and accept help from others. She says parenting and her own experiences of loss have also made her a more empathetic physician. “It gives you that motivation to help children and families in the very best way that you can,” she says. 

Each Sunday, Burkholder sings with her band at St. Michael Catholic Community. Unlike a traditional church choir, Burkholder’s band plays instruments and sings contemporary songs. Burkholder says singing with the band helps relieve stress and provides balance in her life, and she pursues it, as she pursues all activities, with curiosity and commitment. “The more I learn, the more I want to learn,” she says. “I always want to have that sense that there’s a challenge in life, that there’s something I’m working toward.” —Julia Williams


Here's a breakdown of a typical workday for Dr. Shauna Burkholder.
Click here to see the workdays of all the Top 40 Under 40s.

Timelines were submitted by the Top 40 Under 40s, and do not reflect volunteer work, multi-tasking and periods of unusually high workloads.


Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2017

Marie-Claire Arrieta
Yann Blanchard
J.R. Brooks and Gareth Jenkins
Dr. Shauna Burkholder
Shawn Cable
David Crosby and Cole Torode
Kevin Davies
Anton deGroot
David Dick
Mark Erickson and Matthew Kennedy
Christina Fast
Dr. Geoffrey Gotto
Angel Guerra
Tulika Gupta
Devon Guy
Amanda Hamilton
Aubrey Hanson
Dr. Glen Hazlewood
Scott Henuset and Suzanne Henuset
Jeff Jamieson and Jesse Willis
Kenneth Keung
Matthew Kinderwater
Anila Umar Lee Yuen
Jennifer MacDonald
Richard MacDonald
Avnish Mehta
Uyen Nguyen
Dr. Daniel Niven
Melanie Noel
John Pantazopoulos
Mark Powers
Kevin Read and Julia Read
Eddie Richardson
Pam Rocker
Liz Scarratt
Dr. Fiona Schulte
Jessica Shaw
Dr. Amy Tan
Tommy Wheeldon, Jr.
Jennifer Winter


This article appears in the November 2017 issue of Avenue Calgary. Subscribe here.


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