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2023 Award for Early Career Achievement: Nicholas M. Mohr, MD, MS

06MD, 14MS–clinical investigation  

Nicholas Mohr’s impact on University of Iowa Health Care began when he was still a medical student. He was among the team of medical students who established the UI Mobile Clinic, spending nights and weekends converting a retired city bus into a clinic on wheels. The clinic—though no longer held in a bus—is still serving Iowans 20 years later.  

As a faculty member, Mohr has continued to embody that spirit of service and excellence, building the emergency care research program in the college’s Department of Emergency Medicine, which was established in 2004. He was the first UI physician to be dual trained and board certified in both emergency medicine and critical care medicine, and he holds a split appointment in the Departments of Emergency Medicine and Anesthesia. He became the Department of Emergency Medicine’s first tenured professor in 2021. 

Emergency medicine is still a relatively young specialty,” he says. “My research focuses on systems of care, acute care networks, and telehealth as a way to extend high-quality acute care into the community.” 

This research comes during a critical time. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage of as many as 124,000 physicians across the U.S. by 2034, with some of the hardest-hit areas in rural communities. For community hospitals, the emergency department is the “front door” through which most of their patients are admitted, and improvements in operation and communication could make a huge difference in these patients’ outcomes. 

Portrait of Dr. Nicholas Mohr
Dr. Nicholas Mohr

Most people who have emergencies are treated outside a teaching hospital,” Mohr says. “Our work focuses on figuring out how to ensure that people who are in their local communities get the care that they need.” 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mohr co-led the Project COVERED and Project PREVENT studies, documenting the pandemic’s effect on health care workers to determine appropriate measures to prevent coronavirus infection in health care settings.  

I was working in the ICU when we admitted the first COVID patients in Iowa,” he says. "We had a lot of questions about how we should protect health care personnel. Very early in the pandemic, we started a prospective cohort study of staff in emergency departments around the country to try to understand how people were protecting themselves and what the risk was to providers.” 

After the initial project concluded, Mohr’s team designed and ran a CDC-funded vaccine effectiveness study that started shortly after the vaccine was approved. 

"Health care workers were an attractive group of study participants because they were the earliest people vaccinated against COVID in the real world,” he says. 

The study—still active in 20 sites around the country—remains important in the effort to protect public health in the aftermath of the pandemic. It has evolved over time to report on the effectiveness of bivalent booster doses of the vaccine, how prior infection influences immunity, and the role of vaccination in preventing the prolonged symptoms known as long COVID.  

As a medical educator, Mohr has been honored with awards from medical students and resident physicians alike. 

“One of the things I tell students is to care for your patients first,” he says. “I think that's something that grounds us as physicians, and it's the common denominator between all of us in health care. The second thing I tell them is to stay curious, because there are still a lot of questions left to answer.”