Kara S. Hughan, MD, MHSc

  • Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
  • Member, Vascular Medicine Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Hughan is a practicing pediatric endocrinologist at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with clinical and research interests in impaired glucose metabolism in the setting of obesity and in cystic fibrosis (CF). Her research career began with an intramural training award at the NIH in pediatric endocrinology. During that award, she enhanced her background through completion of a Master’s degree in Clinical Research. Further, during her pediatric endocrine fellowship, she followed my initial pediatric research interests and designed and completed data accrual assessing postprandial glycemia in free living conditions and cardiometabolic risk evaluation in high-risk obese youth and adolescent girls with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

As junior faculty, Hughan developed an FDA IND for oral sodium nitrate and nitrite and she completed her NIH K12/K23 funded projects using the IND drugs to assess PK/PD in healthy adults and safety and efficacy for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. In parallel, during her mentored Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) EnVision award, she expanded her CF Endocrine practice and began co-mentoring a University of Pittsburgh medical student on a retrospective analysis examining factors (including glycemia) determining successful treatment of inpatient pulmonary exacerbations in pediatric patients with CF over a 5-year period at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Next, she mentored CF EnVision mentee in the writing of a Springer Nature Cystic Fibrosis Related Diabetes textbook chapter.

Hughan recently published a first-author manuscript on ‘Female Reproductive Health in CF’ and was co-author on 2 other CF Endocrine manuscripts for a special Journal of Cystic Fibrosis edition covering CF endocrine topics. Lastly, Hughan designed a pilot clinical research study with a CF EnVision co-mentee and mentored a T32-funded pediatric endocrinology fellow to execute the pilot, which forms the basis and preliminary data for a CFF Clinical Research Award proposal under review. Hughan’s current and prior experiences as a physician-scientist in the fields of obesity, prediabetes and early cardiovascular disease and her major contributions to science, are relevant to the islet cell function and hepatic glucose handling goals and scholarly activities developed during her CFF-funded EnVision Cohort I award. Finally, her career and CF EnVision training and future objectives, prior NIH K23 training and multidisciplinary mentorship teams in pediatric and adult glucose homeostasis place Dr. Hughan in a unique position as an independent physician-scientist to mentor future pediatric and adult endocrine and reproductive health fellows and junior faculty locally and nationally.  

Professional and Scientific Society Memberships

  • Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES), 2007-Present
  • The Endocrine Society, 2007-Present
  • American Diabetes Association, 2008-Present
  • Nitric Oxide Society, 2014-Present



Education & Training

  • BS, Nutrition Science, The Pennsylvania State University, 1997
  • MHSc, Clinical Research, Duke University School of Medicine, 2000
  • MD, Wright State University School of Medicine, 2004
  • Residency in Categorical Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, 2004-2007
  • Fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 2007-2010

Selected Publications

Hughan KS, Levine A, Helbling N, Anthony S, DeLany JP, Stefanovic-Racic M, Goodpaster BH, Gladwin MT. Effects of oral sodium nitrite on blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, and intima-media arterial thickening in adults with hypertension and metabolic syndrome. Circulation, under revision. 

Lee SJ, Libman I, Hughan K, Kuk J, Barinas-Mitchell E, Chung H, Arslanian S. Effects of exercise modality on body composition and biomarkers of subclinical atherosclerosis in adolescents with obesity: A randomized clinical trial. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, revision under review. 

Gidding SS, Braffett BH, Shah RD, Lima J, Doria de Vasconcellos H, Shah R, Nadeau K, Tryggestad JB, Keck KD, Hughan KS, Dhaliwal R, Levitt Katz LE for the TODAY Study Group. Longitudinal changes in cardiac structure and function from adolescence to young adulthood in participants with type 2 diabetes mellitus: the TODAY follow-up study. Accepted for publication in Circulation: Heart Failure.  

Okoniewski W, Hughan KS, Weiner GA, Weiner DJ, Forno E. Glycemic control and FEV1 recovery during pulmonary exacerbations in pediatric cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. J Cyst Fibros. 2020 Jan 21. pii: S1569-1993(19)30996-8. Doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2019.12.016. 

Bjornstad P, Hughan K, Kelsey MM, Shah AS, Lynch J, Nehus E, Mitsnefes M, Jenkins T, Xu P, Xie C, Inge T and Nadeau K. Effect of surgical versus medical therapy on diabetic kidney disease over 5 years in severely obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2020 Jan; 43(1):187-195. doi: 10.2337/dc19-0708. PMID: 31685489.  

Daley T, Hughan K, Rayas MS, Kelly A, Tangpricha V. Vitamin D deficiency and its treatment. J Cyst Fibros. 2019 Oct; 18 Suppl 2:S66-S73. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2019.08.022. PMID: 31679731. 

Rayas MS, Kelly A, Hughan KS, Daley T, Zangen D. Adrenal function in cystic fibrosis. J Cyst Fibros. 2019 Oct; 18 Suppl 2:S74-S81. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2019.08.023. PMID: 31679732. 

Hughan KS, Daley T, Rayas MS, Kelly A, Roe A. Female reproductive health in cystic fibrosis. J Cyst Fibros. 2019 Oct; 18 Suppl 2:S95-S104. doi: 10.1016/j.jcf.2019.08.024. PMID: 31679735.

Lee SJ, Libman I, Hughan K, Kuk J, Jeong J, Zhang D, Arslanian S. Effects of exercise modality on insulin resistance and ectopic fat in adolescents with overweight and obesity: A randomized clinical trial. J Pediatr 2019 Mar;206:91-98. doi: 10.1016/jpeds.2018.10.059. PMID: 30554789

Laffel LMB, Tamborlane WV, Yver A, Simons G, Wu J, Nock V, Hobson D, Hughan KS, Kaspers S, Marquard J. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile of the sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitor empagliflozin in young persons with Type 2 diabetes: a randomized trial. Diabetic Medicine. 2018 Aug;35(8):1096-1104. doi: 10.1111/dme.13629. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 29655290 

Full Publication List via NIH PubMed »

Academic and Research Interests

  • inorganic nitrite therapy for hypertension
  • metabolic syndrome
  • liver stiffness and cystic fibrosis related diabetes
  • early cardiovascular disease assessment in obesity
  • PCOS and type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • mitochondrial function in obesity 

Research Grants

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation EnVision CF: Emerging Leaders in CF Endocrinology Cohort II, 2019-2022

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Real World Data Study, 2017-2021

A Randomized, Double-Blind Study with an Open-Label Extension Comparing the Effect of Once-Weekly Dulaglutide with Placebo in Pediatric Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (AWARD-PEDS: Assessment of Weekly Administration of LY2189265 in Diabetes-PEDiatric Study), 2016-2022

U01 DK61230PI, Studies to Treat or Prevent Pediatric Type 2 Diabetes (STOPP-T2D) – TODAY, 2001-2020

NIH NIA RO1, Nitrites, skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration, and physical activity in old age, 2019-2021