Spotlight on Research - UW Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine

MAY 2024


Academic Evening 2024

Event Co-Chairs Dustin Long and See Wan Tham, Vice Chair for Research Tonya Palermo and Department Chair Burkhard Mackensen, welcomed faculty, trainees and staff to APM’s 16th Academic Evening at UW’s Intellectual House on May 7th. The event featured 59 academic posters highlighting innovative research across the department, presentations by authors of award-nominated abstracts, and an inspirational keynote address by Patrick L. Purdon, PhD, Professor of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine and Bioengineering at Stanford University School of Medicine.



APRIL 2024

Smiling family with teenage girl wearing pink sunglasses, mom with white scarf, boy wearing blue shirt and dad wearing dark jacket, with baroque style church spire in background.


Associate Professor Nita Khandelwal’s research program focuses on the intersection of palliative and end-of-life care, critical care, and health economics.  She is particularly interested in the ability of supportive and palliative care interventions to improve patient and family outcomes, and thereby improve both the quality and value of care delivered to seriously ill patients.  Dr. Khandelwal thinks addressing and mitigating financial hardship is a missing key component of interventions designed to improve patient- and family-centered outcomes after critical illness.  

Dr. Khandelwal earned an undergraduate degree in the School of Foreign Service from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, followed by medical school at Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine.  She completed residency training at Northwestern University and then moved to UW APM for a critical care fellowship and to pursue a MS degree in Pharmacoeconomics through UW’s Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute. The people and culture at Harborview and the robust critical care research environment, including an invaluable mentorship relationship with Dr. Randy Curtis, led to her decision to stay at UW.    

A native of the western suburbs outside Chicago, Dr. Khandelwal never tires of the natural beauty of the PNW and the ease of access to so many recreational activities.  In her free time, she loves to spend time with her kids, ages 7 and 9, and husband Matt. Their family loves traveling, skiing, and camping.  Dr. Khandelwal also enjoys tennis, baking, and arts and crafts of all kinds.  


March 2024

APM’s 2nd Annual Research Retreat brought 30 faculty members and 3 residents to UW’s Intellectual House under the theme “Collaboration and Team Science.” Vice Chair for Research, Dr. Tonya Palermo, welcomed attendees and outlined the retreat’s goals: evaluate progress, foster collaboration, exchange ideas, and identify research or resource gaps. Department Chair, Dr. Burkhard Mackensen, shared the state of the department’s research enterprise including research proposal and grant award trends and congratulated faculty for their recent professional achievements.

Attendees heard from keynote speaker Dr. Nino Ramirez, Director of the Center for Integrative Brain Research at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Zain Nadella Endowed Chair in Pediatric Neuroscience in the UW Department of Pediatrics, and Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Neurophysiology. Dr. Ramirez presented “Networks without borders: The dynamic control of breathing and other vital functions.”

The audience also heard from 4 department investigators presenting their work:

  • Professor Nathalia Jimenez, MD, MPH, “Traumatic Brain Injury Among Latino Children”
  • Associate Research Professor Nagana Gowda, PhD, “Unstable Coenzymes and their Anomalous Dynamics: New Insights from NMR Spectroscopy”
  • Associate Professor Nita Khandelwal, MD, MS, “Financial Hardship After Critical Illness: Understanding the Burden and Consequences”
  • Assistant Professor Rui Li, PhD, “Preventing Chronic Pain: Integrating Clinical and Population Health Approaches”

Opportunities for collaboration and team building were offered during breakout sessions led by APM faculty:

  • “Translational/Technology-Based Research” co-chaired by Professor Vikas O’Reilly-Shah, MD, PhD and Associate Professor Jacob Sunshine, MD, MS
  • “Mitochondria and Metabolism Center” chaired by Professor Rong Tian, MD, PhD
  • Center for Neurobiology, Addiction, Pain and Emotion” co-chaired by Professor Michael Bruchas, PhD and Professor Garret Stuber, PhD
  • “Population & Global Health” chaired by Professor Nicholas Kassebaum, MD
  • “Clinical Trials” co-chaired by Research Professor Kushang Patel, PhD, MPH, and Professor Brett Stacey, MD

We extend a special note of gratitude to the planning team for their time and organizing efforts, to the presenters for sharing their knowledge and insights, and to the attendees for their participation and constructive feedback. The past two retreats have helped us learn about faculty experiences, strengths, challenges, and areas of research needs in the department, which we will use to develop longer-term departmental goals for research.


February 2024

Rui Li, wearing an orange jacket, stands with Mt. Rainier in the background.


Rui Li, PhD is a pain epidemiologist and a newly appointed Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. Dr. Li is currently building a research program that aims to integrate developmental considerations and sex and gender-specific factors to prevent the occurrence and reduce the public health impact of chronic pain. With a keen interest in addressing pain in women and children, her long-term goal is to prevent the development of chronic pain in young people and reduce sex and gender disparities in pain across the lifespan.  

Dr. Li grew up in a small seaside town in Zhejiang Province, China. With a heart deeply rooted in her childhood experiences, where the hardship and strength of the women around her—especially her mother—left a lasting imprint, Dr. Li is always fascinated with understanding the struggles and resilience of females. As the first in her family to attend college, she completed a 5-year bachelor’s degree in preventive medicine from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and School of Public Health, where she gained broad exposure to basic science, clinical medicine, applied public health work, and research methodology. This has laid the groundwork for her long-term commitment to evidence-based prevention research. Dr. Li furthered her education with a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry in Upstate New York, where she received in-depth training in population-based and clinical research methodology. Her dissertation work, motivated by the significant public health burden of chronic pain and its disproportionate impact on women, focused on the role of menstrual pain in the emergence and severity of chronic pain later in life. The goal was to highlight the significance of menstrual pain as a public health problem and to better manage menstrual pain as a strategy for preventing chronic pain in women.  

To continue her research in chronic pain prevention, Dr. Li joined the Pediatric Pain and Sleep Innovations (PPSI) lab at Seattle Children’s Research Institute in 2021 as a postdoctoral fellow in pursuit of research in adolescent chronic pain. She has completed a small institution-funded project which examines the roles of pubertal development, sex hormones, and sleep circadian health in the onset of adolescent pain. Currently, she is expanding this line of research to include early life maternal and family risk factors, aiming to create early life, family-based prevention interventions and puberty-informed programs for preventing the incidence of chronic pain in adolescents.  

Dr. Li is immensely grateful to all the mentorship received throughout her academic journey, including the invaluable guidance from her dissertation mentors, Drs. Christopher Seplaki and Donna Kreher, in addition to the generous mentorship support throughout her fellowship training from Drs. Tonya Palermo, Jennifer Rabbitts, See Wan Tham, Neels Groenewald, and Kushang Patel. As a new faculty member, Dr. Li is thrilled to work with the faculty and trainees in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine to contribute to the mission, growth, and success of the department.   

Outside her professional life, Dr. Li enjoys the serenity of nature, reading, hiking, and cooking. She cherishes time with her husband, cat, and family back in China. Dr. Li is particularly fond of the natural beauty around Seattle, making it a family tradition to visit Mount Rainier every summer. Her recent explorations of natural landscapes in both the US and Canada have brought her tranquility, freedom, and inspiration. 


January 2024

Paiger Keasler wears a straw hat and flowered shirt standing on the beach.


Paige M. Keasler, DO is an Acting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, raised by teacher parents who instilled in her their passion for education and helping others. Her mother, a PE teacher, and father, a collegiate basketball coach, exposed her to sports and she quickly learned the importance of teamwork and resiliency.  

Dr. Keasler’s journey began as an undergraduate at Lake Forest College where she majored in Biology and Psychology. She received a scholarship to play collegiate basketball where she was an Academic All-American for 4 years. She played rugby in her off-season. At Lake Forest College, Dr. Keasler began research in Cell Biology and Anatomy. She received a research internship at Rosalind Franklin University-Chicago Medical School where she completed her thesis on single nucleotide polymorphisms within apolipoproteins and how they manifest in mild cognitive impairment versus Alzheimer’s disease. 

Upon graduation, Dr. Keasler joined AmeriCorps in Seattle, where she put her academic research into clinical practice with patients experiencing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s.  After AmeriCorps, Dr. Keasler went to medical school at Western University of Health Sciences in Oregon. 


She completed an Anesthesiology residency back in the Midwest at the University of Iowa, where she was voted chief resident in her final year. She found a passion for women’s health and obstetric anesthesiology and met an important mentor who further exposed her to academic medicine. She completed an Obstetric Anesthesiology Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis and accepted her current position at the University of Washington shortly after.  While in fellowship, she performed a network meta-analysis investigating the treatment of acute onset severe hypertension in pregnancy. She also researched the possible use of Ketamine for postpartum depression prevention, in addition to opioid use after cesarean delivery, helping set up an opioid takeback program. 

At this point, you may be thinking her research interests are broad, and you are right! She is currently the PI at the University of Washington for the BASIC trial with the goal of improving implementation of evidence-based approaches and surveillance to prevent bacterial transmission and infection.  

She is on the editorial board for the International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesiology performing peer review and helping to manage their social media accounts. Dr. Keasler is currently the associate OB Anesthesiology Fellowship Director and a lead on the Fetal Surgery Team at UWMC-Montlake.   

In her free time, Dr. Keasler still likes to play team sports, ride her bike (she recently completed a ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC), hike in the fresh PNW air, and take her 2012 Red RAV4 (she calls it the Red Ravioli) on road trips. She has a goal to visit every National Park and has already visited 53/63!