Faculty Feature Kim Liss

Kim Liss grew up as the oldest of three girls in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. Her parents emigrated from China in the 1980s and settled in Chicago. Her father is a chef and her mother worked as an assembly line worker at a motor parts factory. As the first in her family to attend college, she stayed close to home, studying Religion and Biochemistry at Northwestern University. As an undergraduate, she worked in the lab of Dr. Richard Morimoto studying protein misfolding and aggregation in C. elegans. When she was not studying or working in the lab, she was raising money for Alternative Student Breaks and the annual Dance Marathon. During her time at Northwestern, she also met her future husband, David Liss, who currently attends in Emergency Medicine and Toxicology at Washington University.

After graduation, she moved downtown to attend medical school at Northwestern University. As a first-year medical student, sitting in class listening to a lecture on liver regeneration, she became fascinated with liver physiology. Her decision to become a Pediatric Hepatologist was sealed when she rotated with the Pediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology team and took care of her first biliary atresia patient.

The couples match brought Kim and Dave to St. Louis for residency. After working with the team as a resident, she decided to stay at Washington University for fellowship in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Because of her interest in fatty liver disease and liver transplantation, she joined the lab of Dr. Brian Finck as a second-year fellow. There she developed a model of ischemia reperfusion injury in a mouse model of fatty liver disease. If ischemia reperfusion injury in fatty livers can be prevented or reduced, this would greatly increase the availability of organs for transplantation. Solving this problem will ultimately help the patients she sees in clinic. With this goal in mind, she was determined to become a physician scientist.

After completing her fellowship, Kim completed an additional year of training in Advanced/Transplant Hepatology at Boston Children’s Hospital. There she had the opportunity to care for patients from around the world with both rare and common liver diseases. When she was not taking care of patients, she was working in the lab of Dr. Sudha Biddinger studying bile acid metabolism in fatty liver disease. While she loved being close to the ocean and enjoyed her fair share of lobster rolls, after experiencing her first “bomb cyclone,” it was time to leave Boston and return to the Midwest. As a native Chicagoan, she will always be a Cubs fan, but St. Louis had grown on her during her six years of residency and fellowship.

She returned to Washington University in 2018 with her husband and son (Charlie). Shortly thereafter, Kim and Dave welcomed their daughter, Eleanor. Kim’s clinical time is devoted to caring for kids with liver disease while most of her time is dedicated to the lab, where she studies the effects of ischemia reperfusion injury in fatty liver and the necroptosis pathway. When she is not in the lab or clinic, she is spending time with her family, running after her two kids, and crossing off tasks on the never-ending to-do list for their new home.

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