Casandra (Cassie) Arevalo, MD, grew up in Venezuela, where she always admired physicians and discovered in herself a desire to help sick babies get healthy. Now at WVU Medicine Children’s, she makes that desire a reality as a pediatric pulmonologist.
Dr. Arevalo is pleased with the advances made in treating pulmonary diseases. “Children with complex conditions were once bound to a hospital or home, but treatment has changed greatly. Now they can live normal lives.” For instance, today’s ventilators are small and portable and allow a child with a pulmonary disorder to get outside, enjoy nature, play with friends. “Pulmonary medicine is very exciting these days,” she says.
Arevalo’s team treats patients with asthma, cystic fibrosis, and other illnesses affecting the lungs, including chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and pneumonia. They also treat patients with lung damage from vaping and smoking and work with athletes who have breathing problems and singers with vocal cord dysfunction.
Some of her patients are babies born prematurely. They may need ventilator support to help them continue to grow. “We help families understand ventilators,” she says. “We get to know our patients and families while their babies grow healthier.” Asthma is treated with advanced medications that are injected — called immunotherapy — which can cure asthma caused by allergies. Medications and inhaled therapies can help control symptoms. “We make sure to use the minimum medication required to achieve control of asthma,” says Arevalo. “I don’t want patients on medication forever if it’s not necessary.”
Cystic fibrosis patients can benefit from new medications that correct the defect in their cell membranes that affects lung function. “Their lung function improves greatly,” Arevalo says.
Today, greater attention is given to childhood sleep apnea and the role sleep plays in damaging the lungs. During her fellowship, Arevalo trained in sleep medicine and learned about healthy sleep, sleep apnea, and obesity in children — and how to help patients and their families.
During her residency, Arevalo was recognized as “Most Compassionate Doctor.” She has received awards for research initiatives and is involved in a mentorship program for young doctors and future pulmonary pediatricians.
Arevalo is a new mom, and in her free time she loves to travel, eat, and play music with her husband. She loves the mountains of West Virginia. “When the mountains are calling, we put the baby in the backpack and go hiking,” she says.