Where Her Heart Lies
Karen Florio, M.P.H. (D.O.’07), was already deeply entrenched in the study of high-risk pregnancies when the work suddenly hit very close to home. “In the second year of my fellowship, I got pregnant and developed preeclampsia,” she says. “Even though I already knew so much about it, it changed my perspective a bit. I spend more time with my patients now. I have a lot more empathy for what they’re going through. And, ultimately, it drew me to the cardiovascular aspect of maternal healthcare.” Preeclampsia is a serious health condition that can occur after the 20th week of pregnancy, resulting in high blood pressure. It can also cause the kidneys and liver not to work normally.
Florio says one of the biggest problems in the United States is a lack of evidence on how to care for population-specific high-risk pregnancies. “There are really good registries in Europe and Canada, but we don’t have anything similar here, so that is something we’re working on,” she says. “It was through registries that we found out that heart disease in women presents very differently, and we can get a lot more information about who is affected in pregnancy and how to treat them with more data collection.”
Cardiovascular disease has become the leading cause of death for women in America, and it is especially dangerous among women of color. “That is why my heart lies in cardiology and obstetrics, no pun intended,” says Florio. “I was a near miss, and I feel like I owe it to other women.”
Florio served as the director of the Heart Disease in Pregnancy clinic at St. Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City from 2014 to 2022, a program she developed in collaboration with the obstetrics department and the St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute. She was the assistant fellowship director for the maternal-fetal medicine fellowship at University of Missouri-Kansas City before moving to the University of Missouri in Columbia in 2023, where she serves as the vice chair for patient safety and quality. She is also the chair of the Missouri Perinatal Mortality Board and is the maternal section lead for the State of Missouri Perinatal Quality Collaborative.
After growing up in a small town in Michigan and going to college in Missouri, Florio wanted to experience what it was like to live in a big city. When it came time to apply to medical school, she seized the opportunity and enrolled at the College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM) in a concurrent degree program, getting her Doctor in Osteopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Nutrition. Throughout the rest of her schooling, she became increasingly interested in maternal-fetal medicine, leading her to her current career path.
In addition to being a New York Tech success story, Florio also has a New York Tech love story—she married fellow student Rocco Florio (D.O. ’07). “We became friends the first week of medical school but didn't start dating until the beginning of our fourth year. We got engaged about six months later and got married our first year of residency,” she says. “I think it was great that we could share in both our successes and failures as residents of OBGYN together. And it’s helpful to have somebody who understands how demanding the lifestyle is.”