Kim Smolderen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor - Implementation Science, Outcomes Research Scientist
Department(s) of Biomedical and Health Informatics
UMKC School of Medicine
Education and Background

B.S. - Charlemagne College
B.S., M.S., Ph.D. - Tilburg University
Fellowship - Tilburg University
Fellowship - Saint Luke's Mid-America Heart Institute

Meet Kim Smolderen
How did a Belgian with a bachelor's degree in social work end up as a researcher at UMKC?

While studying social work, I had an internship at a hospital and became fascinated by what had caused patients to be admitted. I wanted to know more about their choices and life conditions, and how those were affecting their health, treatment and recovery. That fascination continued through graduation, when a research opportunity presented itself. So I switched gears to study medical psychology. And instead of practicing as a medical psychologist, I pursued a Ph.D. doing research on the role psychological conditions play in peripheral arterial disease.

And how did you end up in Kansas City?

I needed a good questionnaire for my Ph.D. research and learned of Dr. John Spertus and his Kansas City-based research group, known worldwide for developing patient questionnaires. They had one for gathering information on cardiac patients' psychology and life conditions, and measuring patient outcomes, and he allowed me to use it. After meeting him in person at an American Heart Association conference where I presented my findings, I had the opportunity to work with his group through two grant-funded internships in Kansas City. When I applied for and was offered a faculty position at UMKC, I decided to stay.

What do you enjoy outside of your research?

I enjoy traveling with my husband, who also is Belgian. We especially like visiting the south of Spain and France. We also keep in touch with our Belgian heritage through food, music and literature - and make it an important part of raising our two small children.

Research Focus

Cardiac outcomes, with emphasis on peripheral arterial disease

Since completing her doctorate, Smolderen has received continuous funding for an international research consortium studying peripheral arterial disease, which involves blockages that cause excruciating pain when walking. The condition afflicts 8 million U.S. heart patients and is associated with high rates of heart attacks and premature death.

Research Summary

An estimated 8 million individuals in the United States are affected by peripheral arterial disease (PAD), blockages of the leg arteries that can cause excruciating calf pain when walking. PAD can have a major impact on patients’ quality of life. It is also associated with high rates of heart attacks and premature death. While there are a number of treatments, there have been few previous studies that have prospectively examined treatment patterns for PAD or sought to systematically identify opportunities to improve care. Most importantly, there have been no rigorous studies examining the impact of the disease from patients’ perspectives-their symptoms, function, and quality of life-as a function of different patient characteristics and treatments.

The PORTRAIT study (Phase II) will systematically document the treatments and health-status outcomes (symptoms, function, and quality of life) of 840 US patients from nine centers over the course of one year to address these gaps in knowledge. It will illuminate whether disparities in treatment or health-status outcomes exist as a function of a patient’s age, gender, race, or socioeconomic or psychological characteristics. As a direct deliverable, it will translate its findings-expected health status changes following PAD treatments over the course of one year-directly to patients through the development of education tools for patients with PAD who need to make a choice with regard to their treatment. As it is PCORI’s mission to assist patients, clinicians, purchasers, and policy makers in making informed health decisions with regard to diseases like PAD, PORTRAIT will substantially elevate the field and identify critical gaps in the way PAD is currently managed, including potential disparities in care, so that the quality of care can be improved.

PORTRAIT will also be a critical first step in designing efficient, effective disease management programs for PAD in the future that are based on more personalized and healthcare system-oriented approaches to increase the use of evidence-based guidelines. Finally, as patients have been closely involved in the design of this study in Phase I and continue to be engaged as active advocates and experts on their disease throughout the current study, PORTRAIT will also empower patients and let them decide on what information and outcomes are most relevant for them while dealing with this burdensome condition of PAD.