Plax honored for work with The SPOT

Katie Plax, MD, counsels a teen at The SPOT. (Credit: Robert Boston)

Katie Plax, MD, a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received the Dr. Corinne Walentik Leadership in Health Award from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The award, in its second year, was created to honor the late Dr. Walentik’s commitment to serving vulnerable populations. It is presented to a leader in Missouri health care who exemplifies the passion, dedication and energy that Walentik brought to her work.

Plax, director of the Division of Adolescent and Diagnostic Medicine in the university’s Department of Pediatrics and medical director of The SPOT, received the award and $25,000 in a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 17. Plax requested that the money be given to The SPOT (Supporting Positive Opportunities with Teens), a School of Medicine program that addresses serious health risks facing youth ages 13-24 by providing free, one-stop health care, prevention services and social support.

“I am so honored to receive this award named after my dear friend and mentor, Corinne Walentik,” said Plax, who also is director of the Adolescent Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “I share this award with everyone on the SPOT team, as it is only with them that this good work is possible.”

A native St. Louisan, Plax has devoted her career to improving the health of disadvantaged groups, particularly young people, through patient care, teaching, research and advocacy. Her work has spanned from working directly with high-risk adolescent patients, to teaching residents how to best serve patients in poverty or with special needs, to advocating for policy change.

In 2008, Plax worked with a team of experts and social workers to create The SPOT in St. Louis. Founded in part with funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health and supported by Washington University, the organization offers underserved youth a safe place to receive free health care, counseling, STD screenings and other services.

In a letter nominating Plax for the award, Heidi Miller, MD, an instructor in clinical medicine at the university, praised Plax for not only knowing how to “artfully and delicately” care for a vulnerable teen, but for also having the drive and skills to pursue large-scale change for the betterment of children.

“She can’t help but see the bigger picture and want to fix it,” Miller wrote. “She will provide the most exceptional care to the unique patient in front of her, and then fiercely dedicate herself to fixing the corresponding public health problem that led that patient, and so many others, to suffer in the same way.”

Robert Hughes, PhD, president and CEO of the Missouri Foundation for Health, added: “Dr. Plax is the perfect candidate to receive this award, as she is truly continuing the spirit of the work that Dr. Walentik fought so hard for. We are proud to honor her and offer further assistance to the SPOT as well.”