Karri Adamson was a bookworm as a youngster, reading page after page of adventurous tales, thrilling plot twists and side-splitting humor. She read it all.
She so enjoyed reading that she planned to become a librarian or a teacher so she could be surrounded by books all day.
That changed when she entered high school. She still loved to read, but a new siren call beckoned.
“I just had a fascination with anatomy, physiology,” she says. “I started exploring different options within medicine.”
Today, Adamson is a plastic surgeon with Plastic Surgery & Skin Specialists by BayCare Clinic. She offers a full range of plastic surgery services including advanced breast reconstruction. Microvascular breast reconstruction is of particular interest for her.
“Specifically DIEP flaps,” she says. “This is a procedure where you can use your abdominal tissue to make a breast after mastectomy and so tissue you normally throw away from a tummy tuck, you use. … It’s a great option for the right patient.”
Adamson attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning her pre-med credits and a bachelor’s degree in English, the latter reflecting her love of reading and writing.
“While I was there, I was so focused on this goal of doctor that I didn’t really think or plan what type of doctor I would be,” she says.
Adamson attended medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. There, she was exposed to several possible career paths.
Pediatrics was an early contender. “I actually had no doctors in the family and that’s the doctor I had the most experience with as a patient and I thought it fit with my personality, maybe,” she says.
But by her third year of medical school, Adamson performed surgery rotations and was hooked, effectively ending her interest in pediatrics.
In medical school, rotations are periods in which students spend time as members of a medical team so they can experience all that’s involved with each medical specialty.
“I loved it. I loved the variety of the day,” Adamson says of her surgical rotations. “We rounded in the hospital, we went to the operating room, we saw patients in clinic. Definitely I had more of a connection with patients than I expected a surgeon could.”
She assumed all rotations would be as alluring. Not so.
“It turns out, I missed surgery when I was on the other rotations,” she says. “So I started investigating what type of surgeon I wanted to be.
“Plastic surgery interested me because I could work with trauma patients, cancer patients but be the person who is giving good news, usually,” Adamson says. “Breast cancer patients have always been special to me. Seeing them go through a hard time and getting to be the one who gets to the other side (with them).”
That early intrigue with plastic surgery still influences her practice philosophy.
“I think that it’s super important to listen to the patients. I definitely try to understand where they’re coming from or put myself in their shoes, if possible,” she says. “I think that I am an empathetic person. I think it’s important as a physician to have empathy.
“So my practice philosophy is to listen, really understand and then also communicate well so that the patient feels empowered to make a good decision and deliver.”
Adamson completed fellowship training in microsurgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is an American College of Surgeons fellow.
Although she became a plastic surgeon, Adamson is still a voracious reader and writer. She has authored or co-authored almost 20 research papers and publications.
“Yeah, I have a couple still coming out,” she says. “I do enjoy reading and writing. I think it brings me back to a younger version of myself. I think that it’s important to give back to the medical literature, the people who are training and make things better for the next generation and the next patients.”
When she’s not treating patients, Adamson spends time with her husband, Ian Adamson, a certified registered nurse anesthetist with BayCare Clinic, and their two young daughters.
“I still enjoy reading and I am looking to get into some of the colder weather sports now that I will have a little bit of extra time,” she says.