HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health became one of the most well-known faces in the state during the pandemic.
With decades of experience as a physician, Dr. Landers dedicated her life to the wellness of Alabamians.
Dr. Landers is one of News 19’s four Remarkable Women nominees.
“I really have been a doctor all my life. It’s the only thing I know,” said Dr. Karen Landers.
From a childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, to Birmingham where she went to medical school, Dr. Karen Landers has a career riddled with accomplishments and fueled with a passion that started as a result of her own illness when she was eight-years-old.
“I actually was quite ill. I had pneumonia, had a seizure and I was in the hospital for several days. So that inspired me, I still remember getting a chest X-ray thinking that I would become a doctor,” said Dr. Landers.
Landers is a mother of two and a pediatrician. She has extensive training in Tuberculosis and infection control that has led to multiple awards and taken her around the state, the country, and the world in the name of health.
“I worked a little bit in Central America and had the opportunity to really focus on TB in the Marshall Islands,” said Landers.
She has worked through Ebola, H1N1, Zika, but says COVID-19 came about at a time when she was seeking a change of pace.
Landers said, “I was going to retire in April but after this came along, I thought I’ve never deserted my post in a crisis and didn’t want to desert my post in a crisis. I stayed on to try to do what I could to help my department because the mission of the ADPH is to protect and promote the health of the citizens of Alabama.”
She unexpectedly became one of the faces and voices of Alabama’s ongoing fight with the pandemic. She joked that she’s tired of seeing herself on television but with her career, knows the importance of the work being done even in the face of intense criticism.
“Recognize that at the end of the day with that criticism comes growth, also empathy and understanding of where people are. I’ve had some pretty bad things said to me during this pandemic,” Landers said.
And being the caregiver that she took an oath to be, she takes those harsh words with others in mind.
“If that’s a way that a person feels… they can ventilate. If that helps them to be able to say something, regardless of how offensive I may find that to be, but if that helps them to deal with their feelings or their thoughts or even some sense of loss of their own day-to-day lifestyle, then that’s ok. If that helps them then I can take this, I should be able to take it.”
She has spoken with thousands of COVID patients.
Landers said, “I just really to be an ear to listen to people who had no other source of medical care, that was very rewarding to me.”
Knowing she entered the world of medicine before it was as common to see a female doctor — she hopes other women know that chasing dreams while balancing family is possible.
But for now, she aims to do her part to eradicate this pandemic that affects us all because there’s work to be done.
“We’re making a choice to come here everyday. We’ve been here many years, we can leave but we’re making a choice because we are making a difference,” said Landers.