Celebrating ULSOM Women in Science: Dawn Caster, MD

Celebrating ULSOM Women in Science: Dawn Caster, MD

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is committed to uplifting the women who play a pivotal role in making the research and clinical care at our institution possible every day. For International Women and Girls in Science Day, we are highlighting one of our many dedicated women in science, Dr. Dawn Caster.

Caster is a clinician scientist who specializes in Nephrology (kidney diseases) specifically glomerular diseases which are autoimmune kidney diseases. She serves as an associate professor and the co-director of research for the division of Nephrology and Hypertension. Caster is a recognized researcher in the field of glomerular diseases, with a translational lab that is focused on identifying novel biomarkers in lupus nephritis and evaluating mechanisms of inflammation in lupus nephritis.

Pursuing medicine wasn’t always Caster’s plan for herself. She didn’t start college on the “pre-med” track. Instead, she obtained dual undergraduate degrees in Nutrition (BS) and Sociology (BA). She became more interested in medicine as she progressed through college because she enjoyed both her science and humanities courses. “I think that Medicine is a great intersection of science and humanities,” said Caster.

Many components inspired Caster’s motivation to pursue clinical medicine. Her mother was a teacher who encouraged her from a young age to pursue an education and a career. Her decision to specialize in Nephrology was motivated by both her mother’s diagnosis of kidney disease and the many strong role models and mentors in the division. “I was fortunate to have exposure to many amazing female faculty members,” said Caster. Caster highlighted Dr. Eleanor Lederer (former ULSOM interim chair of medicine and former president of the American Society of Nephrology) and Dr. Rosemary Ouseph (now ULSOM division chief) as faculty that directly inspired her to pursue academic medicine. 

The passion for research came to Caster later from a patient interaction during her training. During her Nephrology fellowship, she encountered a young patient with lupus nephritis that ended up in kidney failure at 18 years old. “I was frustrated with the outcome and wanted to understand more about the disease,” said Caster.  Soon after, she became involved in a research project on lupus nephritis and the project evolved into her scientific career. 

Caster hopes to make a difference for young girls pursuing a career in science or medicine. She highlighted the importance for young girls to have role models in their chosen career fields, as she did. “It is critical for girls and young women to see successful women in science so that they can know this is possible for them,” said Caster.

As the number of women and girls in science and medical fields grows, Caster hopes to see these young women and girls taking up space in these fields. “When I was younger, I was often worried about making the “wrong” choice or failing at something,” said Caster “I also hope that they will be inspired to speak up more, ask more questions, and not be afraid of failure.”