• Research

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Each month, Phoenix Children’s Research spotlights leading physicians and other clinical leaders for their work in the areas of Research, Education and/or Advocacy. For the month of July, we are spotlighting Dr. Vasudha “Vasu” L. Bhavaraju for her work in the areas of Education and Advocacy, and Dr. Joanna L. Kramer for her contributions to Education and Research.

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Dr. Vasudha L. Bhavaraju

Vasudha “Vasu” L. Bhavaraju, MD is a pediatric hospitalist and chief medical education officer/designated institutional officer at Phoenix Children’s, and a clinical associate professor at University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

She attended Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA as a music major, and went on to earn her medical degree at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. Dr. Bhavaraju completed her pediatric residency at Phoenix Children's Hospital/Maricopa Medical Center Pediatric Residency Program, serving as an in-training chief resident during her third year.

As she was completing her residency and looking for an attending position, she recalled being disappointed that there were no positions at the two main pediatric teaching hospitals in the Valley. Like most life lessons, however, not getting her “dream job” right out of training turned out to be the best outcome for her.

She worked as a Phoenix Children’s employee at Scottsdale Healthcare (now HonorHealth) serving as a pediatric hospitalist. Without learners there, she was able to focus on her clinical skills and build her confidence in a setting where no one knew her as a resident. She then moved to Maricopa Medical Center (now Valleywise Health) where she was able to work with residents and became one of the associate program directors of the Phoenix Children's Hospital/Maricopa Medical Center Pediatric Residency Program. She returned to Phoenix Children’s in 2013 as residency program director.

In 2020, Dr. Bhavaraju became the chief medical education officer/designated institutional officer, while concurrently serving as a pediatric hospitalist. She enjoys having her work time split between administrative and clinical work. Dr. Bhavaraju believes working as a hospitalist makes her a better educator, and vice versa.

Dr. Bhavaraju was the recipient of the inaugural Phoenix Children’s Heart & Hand Clinical Excellence Award for Teacher of the Year in 2021. The award honors teaching faculty who take the time to coach those around them while actively mentoring future clinicians. Recipients of the award are nominated by their peers. Dr. Bhavaraju is also a two-time recipient of the Grace L. Caputo, MD, MPH Faculty Mentor Award, having been honored with the award in 2013 and again in 2020, and was the recipient of the 2009 Melvin L. Cohen Faculty Teaching Award.

Guided by strong mentorship, key opportunities and a personal mantra from Roman philosopher Seneca – “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” – Dr. Bhavaraju feels fortunate to have found her niche in medical education early on in her career. Her current role involves building programs, developing partnerships, mentoring learners and finding new and innovative ways to train the next generation of physicians and pediatricians. She also brings personal experience as a trainee in the same program she now oversees.

“It is truly a privilege to work at the institution that ‘raised’ me into the professional I am today and to be able to offer the same support for others,” shared Dr. Bhavaraju.

Dr. Bhavaraju’s professional affiliations include the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Association of Pediatric Program Directors.


“During my recruitment to Phoenix Children’s/U of A, I had the honor to be interviewed by Dr. Bhavaraju and was overwhelmed by her kind, positive attitude and her passion for education. My initial WOW when I met her has been amplified through our continued interactions. Her dedication to education and her compassion for the trainees she represents makes Phoenix Children’s the PLACE to TRAIN. I am so thankful for her leadership, energy and advocacy for the learners she represents. With her leadership, the future of children in Arizona and throughout our land will bring significant benefits for the children and families we care for so deeply.” – Stewart Goldman, MD


In her free time, Dr. Bhavaraju enjoys coaching a middle-school cross-country team, mountain biking, classical guitar, mixology and reflective writing. She is married to Anuj, a Canadian-born speech-language pathologist, and they have three kids, Kishan, Kalyani and Jahnav.

When asked about what Dr. Bhavaraju sees as the future for medical education, she explained that with each new generation of learners and with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need for more creative, engaging and accessible methods of teaching and learning such as asynchronous learning, simulation, telehealth and gamification. In August, Dr. Bhavaraju will start a master’s degree in education for learning design and technology at Arizona State University. Her goal is not only to learn the fundamentals of educational theory to provide a foundation for her current role as an educator, but also the tools to embrace the future of medical education. 


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Joanna L. Kramer, DO, MPH

Joanna L. Kramer, DO, MPH, general pediatrics, received her bachelor’s degree in biology at Ursinus College, a master’s in public health degree from the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and her doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Touro University Nevada. She then completed an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) dually accredited pediatric residency and a chief residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. She is currently a faculty physician in Phoenix Children’s Division of Primary, Complex Care and Adolescent Medicine.

As an educator, Dr. Kramer is a clinical assistant professor of medicine for the University College of Medicine - Phoenix and a clinical instructor at Mayo Alix School of Medicine in Phoenix.

She is a graduate medical education quality improvement coach, and she led Phoenix Children’s residents in a quality improvement project to improve screening for discrimination in the General Pediatrics clinic. The team received the Quality Day award for the best resident QI project in 2022. Dr. Kramer is excited to take on a new role as the maintenance of certification director at Phoenix Children’s.

Dr. Kramer developed and directed the Osteopathic Manipulative (OMT) Medicine rotation at Phoenix Children’s, serving as the rotation director at Phoenix Children’s. She was honored to receive Phoenix Children’s residency outpatient faculty teacher of the year award in 2017-18, along with multiple attending of the month awards.


“Dr. Kramer brought her expertise in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) to the Division of Primary, Complex Care and Adolescent Medicine in 2017, and right away started to develop an OMT clinic, which has grown exponentially due to her excellent clinical care and programmatic strengths,” shared Dr. Wendy Bernatavicius, MD, division chief of Primary, Complex Care and Adolescent Medicine.


Dr. Kramer provides mentorship to medical students and residents who are interested in pediatrics, osteopathic medicine, quality improvement and research. These relationships are enriching to her career as she derives so much joy in seeing a learner succeed in achieving their goals. To be a part of that is a huge honor, she shared.

Her research interests include pediatric osteopathic manipulation, environmental health, and COVID-19 prevention and surveillance. She is passionate about resident education, osteopathic research, and public health and health disparities.

Dr. Kramer is a sub-investigator on an NIH-sponsored study entitled Back to ECE safely with SAGE: Reducing COVID-19 Transmission in Hispanic and Low-income Preschoolers. She is also on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, Pfizer RCT: A Phase 1, open-label dose-finding study to evaluate safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity and phase 2/3 placebo-controlled, observer-blinded safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity study of a SARS-COV-2 RNA vaccine candidate against COVID-19 in healthy children and young adults and Pfizer’s A Phase 2/3, Interventional, Safety, Pharmacokinetics, and Efficacy, Open-Label, Multi-Center, Single-Arm Study to Investigate Orally Administered PF-07321332 (Nirmatrelvir)/Ritonavir in Non-Hospitalized Symptomatic Pediatric Participants with COVID-19 Who Are At Risk of Progression to Severe Disease.

As with many clinics, COVID-19 changed the landscape from in-person to telemedicine, and Dr. Kramer saw an opportunity to study how the division could provide continued OMT care to patients in a virtual setting.

In her most recent publication, Osteopathic interventions via telehealth in a pediatric population: a retrospective case series, she reported “osteopathic interventions via telehealth resulted in decreased average pain scores following treatment while minimizing risk of viral exposure and transmission.”

Dr. Kramer pursued this research on OMT, believing it to be a wonderful tool to offer her patients for a multitude of reasons but found the published literature on OMT – especially pediatric OMT – is lacking.

“I think it is very important to contribute to the literature in this realm so that the medical community can see the evidence to support this treatment modality,” Dr. Kramer explained. “Thus, I am always looking for ways to increase the evidence base for OMT. Osteopathic interventions via telehealth had never been described in the literature before, so I wanted others to know my experience with these techniques and that it is safe and effective.”


"Dr. Kramer has been a strong and positive force since she joined our division, and we are so excited to see what she builds next!” said Dr. Wendy Bernatavicius, division chief of General Pediatrics.


Dr. Kramer’s selected publications: