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Abigail Lara, MD: Creating a Culture of Excellence from the Classroom to the ICU

Pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist helps patients breathe easier, colleagues aim higher

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Written by Kristen O'Neill on March 10, 2023
What You Need To Know

This physician, educator and administrator is bolstering relationships across the healthcare ecosystem at CU Anschutz Medical Campus to create an environment of excellence in all aspects of clinical care, education and research.

Abigail Lara, MD, is a pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist with a subspecialty in scarring lung diseases. As an associate professor, physician and administrator on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Lara deftly shifts focus between the “pure adrenaline” of caring for patients in the ICU and the serene tenacity she brings to her leadership roles in the classroom and administration.

Lara builds relationships between researchers, educators and clinicians across a complex healthcare system, enhancing collaboration and creating an environment of excellence. “People working at the top of their scope in a culture of excellence translates to excellence in patient care,” Lara says.

Below, Lara shares more about what drives her professionally, and how her hobbies keep her grounded, centered and inform her work.

“Innovation, creativity and inclusivity are the bedrocks of achieving a culture of excellence.”

What drives you?

What drives me is also what led me to focus on my clinical work as a pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist, and my administrative work in medical professionalism and health equity. I am driven to help others, be it in the clinical arena by providing excellence in relationship-centered clinical care in the ICU, to providing professional development support to members of the campus community to work to promote a culture that is committed to promoting, developing, and maintaining positive working relationships.

How does being part of the CU Anschutz Medical Campus ecosystem help you further your work and your professional goals?

There is a true sense of collaborative efforts to create an environment of excellence in all aspects of clinical care, education and research, and there is an expectation that the status quo should not be the standard to achieve excellence. Innovation, creativity and inclusive excellence are the bedrocks of achieving those goals.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy…

I enjoy spending time with family and friends. Following the impact that social distancing had on relationships, both personal and professional, it is critical to take time to reconnect in meaningful ways with those that are important to me. The relationships with family and friends maintain my social fitness, which along with functional fitness, keeps me happier and healthier!

There are two hobbies which keep me grounded and centered. My husband, Jody, introduced to me to archery when we first met and I immediately fell in love with the focus and meditative aspects of archery combined with the physicality that is required to excel in the sport. The steps to ‘fling an arrow’ accurately require a stance, nocking the arrow, drawing and anchoring the bow, aim, release and follow through. The aim and release help me to focus not on what is in my head or direct line of sight, but on the process of muscle memory and practice.

If there is too much focus on what is in direct line of sight after I aim or I am distracted by the thoughts in my head, my accuracy is sacrificed. Understanding when to release the arrow during the breath cycle and how that impacts accuracy speaks to me as a pulmonologist. My husband and I are archery hunters, our fall vacation and weekends are often spent in the mountains enjoying the benefits of being out in nature.

My second hobby is scuba diving. Not only is it an out of this world feeling to ‘fly’ through the water alongside creatures of the sea with only the sounds of bubbles, it is well established that proximity to water can improve performance, increase calm, diminish anxiety, and increase professional success. Also, diving physiology is directly tied to pulmonary physiology. This interest and focus on science and physiology motivated me to get my Divemaster certification, which will allow me to help Dive instructors to teach scuba courses.

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