Kari Nadeau

Kari Nadeau sits in her lab

Kari NadeauPhotograph by Stu Rosner

As a child, Kari Nadeau spent a few years living on a houseboat where her father, a research scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, studied the polluted estuaries of the New Jersey shore. She doesn’t remember any Huckleberry Finn-esque adventures—just wheezing: the impure water gave her asthma and a severe mold allergy. As soon as her family moved, her health improved. She learned a valuable first lesson that “decreasing exposure improves the clinical outcome,” said Nadeau, who recently became chair of the department of environmental health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Inspired by her father and mother, a public health nurse, Nadeau studied biology at Haverford College before graduating with an M.D./Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1995. Now, she investigates the environmental factors affecting the development of asthma and allergies. During a 20-year career at Stanford, she pioneered a process that helps children conquer multiple food allergies simultaneously by consuming portions of their allergens in a controlled setting. She makes her young patients feel comfortable by treating them “as if they were my own children,” adding to her five at home (including two sets of twins). As a physician, she’s involved in reactive care, but as an entrepreneur and public health expert, she’s interested in preventive measures. She coined the “six D’s” to help prevent infant allergy development—live with a Dog, play in the Dirt, get vitamin D, avoid Dry skin, use less Detergent, and ignore DNA (when it comes to allergies, genetics are not fate). Now, returning to Boston, Nadeau has added a seventh D for herself: Dopamine. As a medical student, she ran marathons, “so my fun is still going out on the greenways and jogging the Emerald Necklace.” It helps that Boston’s “dirty water” is much cleaner than the 1970s-era estuaries of the Jersey shore.

Read more articles by Max J. Krupnick

You might also like

Sarah Ganz Blythe New Art Museums Director

Assumes Harvard post in August

Taking Climate Action at Harvard

Focusing on prime polluting industries, plus politics and policy

Big, Fat, and Sick – Can Digital Healthcare Help?

Harvard physicians on the future of medicine

Most popular

Parks for Tomorrow

Bas Smets harnesses nature to cool cities.

Mechanical Intelligence and Counterfeit Humanity

Reflections on six decades of relations with comptuers

Decoding the Deep

Project CETI’s pioneering effort to unlock the language of sperm whales

More to explore

Architect Kimberly Dowell is Changing Her Profession

Kimberly Dowdell influences her profession—and the built environment.

Harvard Professor on Printmaking

An art historian analyzes an overlooked medium.

Dream Renovations to Harvard Yard Libraries

An ambitious plan for the next century of learning