Kailey Hughes Kramer, MPH, has received UPMC’s Award for Commitment and Excellence in Service (ACES). The ACES Award honors staff whose everyday actions, and in some instances, personal acts of courage and compassion exceed the high level of service that the community has come to expect from UPMC. Each year, less than one percent of UPMC staff from across the health system receives this honor.

Kailey is Research Manager with the ID Division and a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Infectious Disease Expanded Access (IDEA) Center for UPMC, which helps patients get access to drugs and other therapeutic options that are not readily available to them through normal channels. This year, Kailey has been instrumental in providing patients with severe infections potentially life-saving therapies. Through the process of “compassionate use” or an “emergency investigational new drug (eIND)” application, the FDA provides a mechanism by which unlicensed or experimental medications are made available allowing clinicians to administer therapies to patients who might reap the most benefit from them. These drugs cannot be prescribed and are not available through clinical trials. The process from “physician desire to administer the drug” to final regulatory approval is extensive and requires careful coordination with clinical teams, patients, the IRB, drug company, investigational pharmacy, and the FDA.

Kailey has been the champion in this regard, spearheading the entire eIND effort for dozens of patients since joining the ID Division. Because of Kailey’s unrelenting commitment to patient care, we have been able to treat patients with therapies ranging from bacteriophages (which are viruses that treat bacteria, and which are reserved for patients with recalcitrant infections that have no other treatment options) to experimental T-cell therapies for patients with COVID-19. Many of our transplant recipients are being hospitalized with COVID-19 despite vaccination. The optimal therapies for transplant recipients with COVID-19 are unknown as these patients have generally been excluded from clinical trials—without Kailey, these patients would never have had access to any of these treatments.

Kailey places patients at the center of everything she does. Despite how time-consuming compassionate use applications can be, Kailey has managed to navigate all of the challenges with kindness, professionalism, wit, and a sense of humor, all the while juggling her myriad other responsibilities, including overseeing research in our division and managing the student internship program, which includes both undergraduate and graduate students. She has made significant contributions to the care of patients with infectious diseases and the education of students.

Congratulations Kailey on this well-deserved honor. Thank you for your hard work and dedication!