About the Program

Fellows in conference room
Why Us?
  • Bone marrow and solid organ transplant
  • 20 ECMO cases/year
  • CRRT: Prismaflex and CARPEDIEMTM
  • Ventricular assist device
  • ~1500 admissions/year
  • State-of-the-art facilities
  • Only Pediatric Level 1 Trauma Center in the state

The new, free-standing University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital was opened in 2017 and is a state-of the-art facility. The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was the 2018 recipient of the prestigious ICU Design Citation Award from the Society of Critical Care Medicine, American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and the American Institute of Architects. The UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital is considered one of the Best Children’s Hospitals by the U.S. News & World Report and has multiple sub-specialties ranked annually.

The University of Iowa PICU Fellowship Program has been fully accredited since 2002. The program is accredited for 6 fellows (two per year). The University of Iowa is unique in that it has a rich history of excellence in clinical care, research and education but it is a true Midwestern environment (collegial, collaborative, and connected). 


Winner of 2018 ICU Design Citation Award presented to University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit from the Society of Critical Care Medicine, American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and the American Institute of Architects.

University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is the only children’s hospital in Iowa that is nationally ranked for pediatric care by U.S. News and World Report. Read our June 14, 2022 news release.

  • 26 in neonatology 
  • 38 in pediatric cancer 
  • 23 in pediatric diabetes and endocrinology 
  • 27 in pediatric nephrology 
  • 38 in pediatric neurology and neurosurgery 
  • 36 in pediatric orthopedics 
  • 50 in pediatric pulmonology 

The annual Best Children’s Hospitals rankings recognize the top 50 pediatric facilities across the U.S. in 10 pediatric specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and lung surgery, and urology. 

UI Stead Family Children's Hospital and the UI Stead Family Department of Pediatrics are recognized nationally for a number of achievements.

Pediatric researchers at the University of Iowa have a long history of breakthrough discoveries in both the clinical and laboratory setting. Meet members of our research team:

Training Program

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is the only comprehensive health care center in Iowa offering the full range of Pediatric Critical Care (ECMO, VAD, CRRT). Unique to Iowa, our 28-bed unit includes the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU), both led by our faculty and fellows, and is a Level 1 Trauma Center.  

The 36-month curriculum is divided into approximately 18 months of clinical rotations and 18 months of research. Each rotation is 2-4 weeks in duration. 

First Year

  • PICU Days – 12 weeks
  • PICU Nights – 10 weeks
    • Total PICU Time
      22 weeks
  • CVICU – 8 weeks
  • Anesthesia/Sedation – 6 weeks
  • Research – 16 weeks

Second Year

  • PICU Days – 8 weeks
  • PICU Nights – 8 weeks
    • Total PICU Time
      16 weeks
  • CVICU – 8 weeks
  • Elective – 2 weeks
  • Research – 26 weeks

Third Year

  • PICU Days – 8 weeks
  • PICU Nights – 8 weeks
    • Total PICU Time
      16 weeks
  • CVICU – 4 weeks
  • Research –
    32 weeks

Our unit operates as a PICU team and a CVICU team during the daytime, but one combined team at night. This allows fellows additional exposure to high-acuity patients throughout the year. Fellows do a night float rotation Monday – Friday but still take 24 hour call intermittently on weekends. 

Our fellows serve as medical control for all admissions to the PICU. This is an excellent opportunity to learn how to establish effective communication with outside providers to ensure patients are cared for and transferred safely. While first years are heavily supervised during their initial rotations, the majority of transport/admission calls are managed by second and third fellows independently.

Elective opportunities include rotations in or with the cath lab, echocardiography suite, burn unit, cardiothoracic surgery, PICC line/procedure, bronchoscopy, or additional research time.

Former Fellow Quotes

“Iowa’s PICU is a busy, high acuity program with cardiac patients, ECMO and trauma. I loved the relationships I built with patients and families, the breadth and depth of complex pathophysiology I learned to treat, the top-notch people I got to work with every day and the resources of the pediatric hospital within a large medical campus. The experience I gained at Iowa prepared me so well to lead both a large academic ICU team and a smaller community ICU team. I learned to care for sick kids and their families with expertise and compassion.” Paige Volk, MD (PICU Fellow 2003-2006)

“The training at Iowa is second to none. In addition, the PICU fellowship team is committed to the health and well-being of the trainees. Life happens to doctors, too. It matters that you train in a place where people care for you and want the very best for you. I had that at Iowa and I know that remains the core value of the program.” Paige Volk, MD (PICU Fellow 2003-2006)

“Ten years after graduating from my fellowship the words of advice and wisdom of the incredible faculty who trained me still echo in my head as I’ve cared for patients in both the PICU and CICU at Texas Children’s Hospital. I am grateful for the amazing teaching I received and hope to do the same for my trainees.” Gwen Erkonen, MD (PICU Fellow 2007-2010)

“I’m so thankful for my training at the University of Iowa. At Iowa, I got to practice big city medicine in an affordable, fun and extremely livable small city. The training I received prepared me very well for the transition to the role of attending in a busy mixed cardiac/general PICU. The attendings are great people and great doctors. I learned not just how to treat critical illness but how to truly care for patients and families.” Mike Van Dyke, MD (PICU Fellow 2012-2015)

“My fellowship at UIowa was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to care for children with a wide variety of illnesses and illness severity while learning from the best! The gradual autonomy given over the course of my training helped prepare me for the transition to attending physician.” Ashley Sandeen, DO (PICU Fellow 2013-2016)

“I love the Iowa PICU Program!
- Warm and friendly learning environment with mixed bread and butter diseases and rare diagnoses
- Endless research opportunities.”
Weerapong Lilitwat, MD (PICU Fellow 2016-2019)

“I feel that our PICU fellowship at Iowa is vastly underrated. I have had a great experience in training with excellent divisional role models and mentors, variety of clinical cases and acuity, and good clinical volume. Our center is big enough to see it all yet not too big where one becomes lost in a sea of trainees.” Mitchell Luangrath, MD (PICU Fellow 2017-2020)


Fellows with faculty in conference roomEducational Conferences

The University of Iowa Stead Family Department of Pediatrics has a centralized Pediatric Core Curriculum for all pediatric subspecialty fellows which includes weekly topics such as responsible conduct of research, research ownership and authorship, teaching at the bedside, quality improvement research, and wellness. This is also the forum where fellows present their scholarly work products for review. Included in this is a separate Reflective Practice and Leadership for first year fellows to discuss challenging scenarios in medicine.

The Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship has the following conferences:

Management Conferences

Weekly PICU Clinical Conference 
Faculty, fellows and nurse practitioners discuss the current cases in the PICU and PCICU. Discussion focuses on challenging cases, difficult management decisions, and a brief update on progress of patients. 

Pediatric Cardiology/CT Surgery Conference 
Faculty, fellows and nurse practitioners on service in the PCICU attend the joint weekly conference to discuss the upcoming surgical cases for the week. Patients are also presented for consideration of surgery or to review their clinical course and explore alternate options for challenging cases.

PICU Morbidity and Mortality
This faculty mentored/fellow-led multidisciplinary monthly conference reviews the morbidities and mortalities in the PICU focusing on practice-based medicine, patient safety, and areas for system-wide improvement. 

Pediatric Cardiac Morbidity and Mortality
This faculty-mentored/fellow-led monthly conference is shared by PICU and Cardiology. Fellows present the morbidities and mortalities focusing on practice-based medicine, patient safety, and areas for system-wide improvement. 

Pediatric Trauma Multi-D Meeting
This monthly meeting is led by Pediatric Surgery and reviews the pediatric trauma patients. The purpose of this meeting is to focus on practice-based medicine, patient safety, and areas for system-wide improvement. 

Educational  Conferences

PICU Core Curriculum 
This conference is a weekly educational conference on the core principles and foundations of pediatric critical care medicine. Sessions are a mix of faculty-led and fellow-led topics. 

Journal Club
This faculty-mentored/fellow-led conference is where we review a recent or highly relevant critical care/cardiac critical care journal. Fellows review the articles based on PICO guidelines for systemic review.

Evidence-Based Medicine Conference
This faculty-mentored/fellow-led conference reviews a series of articles related to patient management. Topics are chosen by fellows based on recent clinical questions and reviewed based on level of evidence. 

Pediatric Grand Rounds
Weekly lectures for Department of Pediatrics staff on a variety of topics.

Frontiers in Pediatric Research
Lecture series highlighting advances in pediatric research. This series includes work by international and national leaders in research.

Other Conferences

PICU Pearls
Monthly sessions on topics such as career development, work-life balance, wellness and quality improvement.

Fellows are also able to attend a vast variety of lectures/seminars through the Carver College of Medicine, Iowa’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, and various departments throughout the hospital. 

Scholarly Work

Presenter at podium

The Stead Family Department of Pediatrics has a long, distinguished history of excellence in scientific discovery and a strong tradition of pediatric research. Furthermore, we have a long-standing commitment to train future leaders in areas of clinical, basic and translational research. The research enterprise of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine garnered $232.2 million in external funding in 2019, ranking 34th by U.S. News & World Reports. Over the past 15 years, the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics has been highly ranked for its NIH funding, when compared with pediatric departments of medical schools across the United States. The University of Iowa’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science through its NIH-support is able to provide services to support child health research in multiple ways including assisting in grant preparation, biostatistical analysis, and database management. 

Specific interests within our division include: traumatic brain injury, hemodynamic monitoring in sepsis, patient safety with specific emphasis on studying the diagnostic process in critical care environments, pathogenesis of acquired heart defects, cardiac arrest management, simulation, curriculum development, outreach education, acute lung injury management, and extracorporeal therapies.

Recent scholarly work projects from graduating fellows include:

  • Optimizing enteral nutrition in the PICU: Identifying interruptions and barriers to feeding and developing a protocol
  • Using simulation to teach how to deliver bad news
  • Impact of ventilator liberation protocol on mechanical ventilation in the PICU
  • Traf3 regulated pathways in B cell lymphoma
  • Analyzing staph aureus isolates and resistance
  • Multi-frequency oscillatory ventilation in ARDS
  • Identifying anticoagulation practices on ECMO: Development and implementation of a protocol

Faculty/Research Mentors

View a full list of our Pediatric faculty research profiles.


Research Timeline and Goals

Prior to Starting Fellowship

Brainstorming - use experience in Residency to identify areas of interest for fellowship

Year 1


Months 1-4

Thought funneling, initial meetings with potential mentors

Months 5-7

Formation of Scholarly Oversight Committee

Months 8-12

Development of the primary research project

Year 2

  • Engagement and ownership of project follow through
  • Submitting and presenting results to national meetings
  • Considering secondary projects

Year 3

  • Completion of primary project including manuscript
  • Secondary project(s)



Do you need external funding for any part of the fellowship?

No, all of our fellowship positions are funded through the Department of Pediatrics. However, fellows are eligible for funding through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Training grant through the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center.

What tracks do you offer?

We have one 3-year clinical track with a focus on clinical care, research and/or education. A fellow and their scholarly oversight committee (SOC) will continuously reevaluate progress and goals to refine learning experiences. The SOC is assembled by the fellow and consists of the fellow’s primary research mentor(s) and senior faculty members with expertise relevant to the fellow’s career interests. At least one member of the SOC is from a different clinical division, which provides additional career perspective.

We have the opportunity of a 2-year fellowship for those who have already completed a Pediatric Subspecialty. This track will be more focused on clinical care provided the research requirement has been fulfilled by the previous pediatric fellowship.

How large is the UI Stead Family Children's Hospital?

University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital is Iowa's only comprehensive children's hospital. We have 190 pediatric beds and 28 PICU beds, with approximately 15,000 admissions per year. Our first children's hospital opened in 1919, and our beautiful new facility was opened in 2017. Last year, we cared for children from all of Iowa's 99 counties as well as 45 states and 20 countries.

Am I going to see enough volume and diversity in Iowa?

We provide care for the majority of pediatric endocrine patients in Iowa, and our catchment area also includes a significant portion of Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Our patients come from diverse backgrounds in terms of SES, race, and ethnicity, providing a rich clinical and social experience. Our 28-bed PICU cares for both medical-surgical patients as well as the congenital heart population for the catchment area. We are the only level-1 pediatric trauma center in the state and the state’s only pediatric transplant center for solid organ and BMT patients. Our consultative services include the whole range of pediatric subspecialties and surgical specialties.

Does the division provide educational funds?

Yes. Each fellow is provided funds to travel to at least one conference through the division. Fellows are also encouraged and support to apply for other travel grants to attend additional conferences. Funding may potentially be provided through a mentor’s lab if a poster is accepted for presentation. All first-year fellows will also be fully funded to attend the national PICU Bootcamp.

Is there a simulation component to the education program?

Yes! Our simulation program varies from active in-situ PICU simulations of acute events, vascular access simulations, ECMO simulations, and transport call simulations to delivering bad news simulations with standardized patients. We also participate in the first year fellow Bootcamp through CHOP for incoming first years. We are starting a series of simulations with standardized patients that address topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion this year which we are very excited about!

Are there opportunities for electives during fellowship?

Yes, in your senior years there is time for electives. Elective options include: PICC line training, Echo-lab, Cath-lab, Burn Unit, Cardiothoracic Surgery, and ECMO to name a few. Fellows choose their area of interest and electives are created from there.

How does the program help fellows prepare for boards?

Our Faculty-led board review occurs every three months in our core curriculum requiring fellow participation. In addition to that our core curriculum is designed to address all the ABP-board content over a period of 18 months, which gets then gets repeated and adjusted over the years to account for ABP updates in board content.

Does the University of Iowa offer master’s programs?

Yes, we will offer the option of completing a master’s program through the University of Iowa. Candidates will have a separate application process to qualify for funding through the GME office. The expectation is that the master’s program will fulfill all of the requirements set forth by the American Board of Pediatrics for research. These will be continually evaluated by mentors within the masters programs as well as within the division through your scholarship oversight committee.

Is there anything fun to do in Iowa, or is it just cornfields?

Iowa City has a small town feel but all of the amenities of a big city. Our visitors are always amazed at what a hidden gem we have here, and we'd love to show and tell you about it. Whether you prefer artshistory, music, outdoor activities, Big10 college sports, farm-table restaurants, or even craft breweries, you will find something to love about Iowa City.