Dr. Sarah Hilgenberg specializes in the treatment of hospitalized children. She has practiced Pediatric Hospital Medicine for more than 9 years. She has particular interests in optimizing patient-family-physician communication and in teaching medical trainees. She enjoys spending time with her family outdoors.

Clinical Focus

  • Pediatric Hospital Medicine
  • Pediatrics

Academic Appointments

  • Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatrics

Administrative Appointments

  • Physician Lead, Patient Experience, LPCH (2013 - 2015)
  • Associate Program Director of Curriculum, Pediatric Residency Program (2013 - Present)
  • Residency Liaison, Valley Children's Hospital-Stanford Affiliated Residency Program, Pediatric Residency Program (2015 - Present)
  • Medical Education Scholarly Concentration Co-Leader, Pediatric Residency Program (2018 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • Top Article in Medical Education 2018, Academic Pediatric Association (5/2019)
  • Resident Research Award, Academic Pediatric Association (4/2019)
  • Core Clerkship Honor Roll for Clinical Teaching, Stanford School of Medicine (2017-18)
  • ROSE Award for recognition of service excellence, LPCH (2012)
  • Rathmann Clinician Research Scholar in Medical Education, Stanford University (2014-2015)
  • Advancing Pediatric Educator eXcellence Teaching Program Scholar, American Academy of Pediatrics (2014-2016)
  • Dedication to Excellence - Watsonville Hospitalist Elective Rotation, Pediatric Residency Program, Stanford University (June 2015)
  • Rotation of the Year Award - Night Float Rotation, Pediatric Residency Program, Stanford University (June 2015)
  • Novice Research Grant, Society for Simulation in Healthcare (2016-17)
  • Special Projects Grant, Association of Pediatric Program Directors (APPD) (2016-17)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Member, Valley Children's Hospital GME Steering Committee (2015 - 2018)
  • At-Large Member, Associate Program Director Executive Committee, Association of Pediatric Program Directors (2019 - Present)
  • Member, Curriculum Committee, APA's Educational Scholars Program (2019 - Present)

Professional Education

  • Medical Education: Stanford University School of Medicine (2007) CA
  • Residency: University of Washington Pediatric Residency (2010) WA
  • Board Certification: American Board of Pediatrics, Pediatrics (2010)
  • Board Certification, American Board of Pediatrics, Pediatric Hospital Medicine (2019)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Physician-patient-family communication, patient experience; medical education; performance improvement; clinical pathway and orderset creation, implementation and use

All Publications

  • Advancing Our Understanding of Pediatric Resident Communication Skills and Disruptive Behavior and Mistreatment Strategies. Academic pediatrics Hilgenberg, S. L., Bogetz, A. L., Leibold, C., Blankenburg, R. L. 2020

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.acap.2020.10.017

    View details for PubMedID 33220461

  • Categorical Pediatric Residency Program Curriculum Needs: A Study of Graduating Residents and Residency Program Leadership. Academic pediatrics Hilgenberg, S. L., Frintner, M. P., Blankenburg, R. L., Haftel, H. M., Gellin, C. E. 2020


    BACKGROUND: Pediatric residency programs must adapt their curriculum to meet evolving patient needs yet face limited resources to implement changes resulting in gaps. We performed a categorical pediatric residency program curriculum needs assessment to inform curriculum development efforts.METHODS: We analyzed data from the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics Annual Survey of Graduating Residents and pediatric program and associate program director polls conducted at a 2019 pediatric residency program director national meeting. We used conventional content analysis to code and categorize.RESULTS: Participants included 528 (53%) graduating residents representing 88% of programs, 89 program directors, and 177 associate program directors representing at minimum 45% of programs. Participants demonstrated concordance on the top 4 needs: additional clinical experiences, career development, business of medicine, and health systems. Program leaders also identified wellness and resiliency; disparities; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and communication.DISCUSSION: This is the first categorical pediatric program general curriculum needs assessment conducted of pediatric leadership and graduating residents in over a decade. While program leadership and resident data were collected 2 years apart, we found concordance on the top 4 categories and consistency with prior national needs assessments with the exception of career development. New curriculum development efforts are underway.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.acap.2020.09.014

    View details for PubMedID 33011294

  • Virtual Cafes: An Innovative Way for Rapidly Disseminating Educational Best Practices and Building Community During COVID-19. Academic pediatrics Blankenburg, R., Poitevien, P., Gonzalez Del Rey, J., Degnon, L., Virtual Cafe Study Team 2020; 20 (6): 756–57

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.acap.2020.05.025

    View details for PubMedID 32502535

  • Righting the Autonomy-Supervision Pendulum: Understanding the Impact of Independent Rounds on Medical Students, Residents, and Faculty. Academic medicine : journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges Moriarty, J. A., Vellanki, S. n., Trope, L. A., Hilgenberg, S. L., Blankenburg, R. L. 2020


    To explore trainee and faculty perspectives on an independent rounding intervention on general pediatrics wards at 2 institutions.In July 2018, the authors introduced independent rounds 1 to 2 times a week at 2 training sites. In this qualitative study, the authors conducted semi-structured focus groups with a purposive sample of junior trainees (clerkship medical students and PGY1 residents), senior trainees (PGY2 and PGY3-5 residents), and hospital medicine faculty between October 2018 and May 2019. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed for themes using the constant comparative approach associated with grounded theory.Focus groups included 27 junior trainees, 20 senior trainees, and 18 faculty. Six themes emerged: (1) Independent rounds contributed to all trainees' development; (2) Senior residents described increased motivation to take full ownership of their patients and educational needs of the team; (3) Faculty expressed concerns about decreased opportunities for teaching and feedback, however all trainees reported unique learning from having faculty both present and absent from rounds; (4) No significant patient safety events were reported; (5) All participants identified communication and patient progression concerns; (6) A tension emerged between decreased faculty and enhanced trainee career satisfaction. Participants identified solutions to identified barriers to further improve this educational intervention.As a result of independent rounding, trainees described increased motivation to take ownership of their patients and team. Both rounding experiences contributed to their development as physicians in different ways. Further studies should explore patient and caregiver perspectives and concerns about communication and patient care progression when designing future interventions to promote resident autonomy.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003645

    View details for PubMedID 32769470

  • De-escalating Angry Caregivers: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Novel Communication Curriculum for Pediatric Residents. Academic pediatrics Hilgenberg, S. L., Bogetz, A. L., Leibold, C., Gaba, D., Blankenburg, R. L. 2018


    OBJECTIVE: Medical providers struggle when communicating with angry patients and their caregivers. Pediatric residents perceive communication competencies as an important priority for learning, yet they lack confidence and desire more training in communicating with angry families. Few curricula exist to support trainees with de-escalation skill development. We developed, implemented, and evaluated the impact of a novel de-escalation curriculum on pediatric resident communication skills.METHODS: Randomized controlled trial of a 90-minute de-escalation curriculum for pediatric residents in August-September 2016. Trained standardized patient (SP) actors rated residents' communication skills following two unique encounters before and after the intervention/control session. Residents completed a retrospective pre-post communication skills self-assessment and curriculum evaluation. We used independent and paired t-tests to assess for communication improvements.RESULTS: 84 of 88 (95%) eligible residents participated (43 intervention, 41 control). Residents reported frequent encounters with angry caregivers. At baseline, interns had significantly lower mean SP-rated de-escalation skills than other residents (P = .03). Intervention residents did not improve significantly more than controls on their pre-post change in mean SP-rated de-escalation skills. Intervention residents improved significantly on their pre-post mean self-assessed de-escalation skills (P ≤ .03).CONCLUSIONS: Despite significant self-assessed improvements, residents' SP-rated de-escalation skills did not improve following a skills-based intervention. Nevertheless, our study illustrates the need for de-escalation curricula focused on strategies and peer discussion, suggests optimal timing of delivery during fall of intern year, and offers an assessment tool for exploration in future studies.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.acap.2018.10.005

    View details for PubMedID 30368036

  • Well-Appearing Newborn With a Vesiculobullous Rash at Birth. Pediatrics Stewart, S. E., Lin, J. L., Everhart, J. L., Pham, T. H., Marqueling, A. L., Rieger, K. E., Hilgenberg, S. L. 2018


    A term, appropriate-for-gestational-age, male infant born via normal spontaneous vaginal delivery presented at birth with a full-body erythematous, vesiculobullous rash. He was well-appearing with normal vital signs and hypoglycemia that quickly resolved. His father had a history of herpes labialis. His mother had an episode of herpes zoster during pregnancy and a prolonged rupture of membranes that was adequately treated. The patient underwent a sepsis workup, including 2 attempted but unsuccessful lumbar punctures, and was started on broad-spectrum antibiotics and acyclovir, given concerns about bacterial or viral infection. The rash evolved over the course of several days. Subsequent workup, with particular attention to his history and presentation, led to his diagnosis.

    View details for PubMedID 29437933

  • Outcomes of a Novel Curriculum on De-Escalating Angry Caregivers for Pediatric Residents (Descriptive Abstract) Academic Pediatrics Hilgenberg, S. L., Bogetz, A. L., Leibold, C., Gaba, D., Blankenburg, R. L. 2017; 17 (5): e3
  • “Recipient of a finding incidental to research” Incidental Findings in Research, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues Hilgenberg, S. 2013
  • Analysis of factors that modify susceptibility and rate of progression in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS Qureshi, M. M., Hayden, D., Urbinelli, L., Ferrante, K., Newhall, K., Myers, D., Hilgenberg, S., Smart, R., Brown, R. H., Cudkowicz, M. E. 2006; 7 (3): 173-182


    We conducted case-control and prospective longitudinal studies to examine risk factors and predictors of disease progression for ALS. Ninety-five subjects with ALS and 106 healthy control subjects were enrolled. All subjects completed a risk factor questionnaire at enrollment. The ALS subjects were prospectively followed for one year to define factors that influence the rate of disease progression, measured by rate of change in percent predicted forced vital capacity (%FVC) and the ALS functional rating scale (ALSFRS) score. The association of each potential risk factor with ALS was determined using univariate logistic regression. A random slope model was used to determine the association of each risk factor with disease progression. The demographic characteristics of ALS subjects and controls at enrollment did not differ. Significant risk factors for ALS included reported exposure to lead (p = 0.02) and pesticides (p = 0.03). Disease progression was faster in the ALS subjects having bulbar onset and a shorter time period between onset of symptoms and diagnosis. Pertinent variables not associated with either causation or progression of ALS included physical activity, cigarette smoking and a history of physical trauma or other clinical disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/14660820600640596

    View details for Web of Science ID 000241153900007

    View details for PubMedID 16963407

  • Transformation: from medical student to patient. Annals of internal medicine Hilgenberg, S. 2006; 144 (10): 779-780

    View details for PubMedID 16702597

  • Increased plasma levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 in patients with Alzheimer's disease NEUROCHEMISTRY INTERNATIONAL Lorenzl, S., Albers, D. S., Relkin, N., Ngyuen, T., Hilgenberg, S. L., Chirichigno, J., Cudkowicz, M. E., Beal, M. F. 2003; 43 (3): 191-196


    Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) may play a role in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). MMP-9 and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are elevated in postmortem brain tissue of AD patients. MMPs and TIMPs are found in neurons, microglia, vascular endothelial cells and leukocytes. The aim of this study was to determine whether circulating levels of MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 are elevated in the plasma of AD patients. We compared AD patients to age- and gender-matched controls as well as to Parkinson's disease (PD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients. There was constitutive expression of gelatinase A (MMP-2), and gelatinase B (MMP-9), in all the samples as shown by zymographic analysis. Levels of MMP-9 were significantly (P=0.003) elevated in the plasma of AD patients as compared to controls. Plasma levels of MMP-2, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 were unchanged. There were no significant changes of MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 levels in PD and ALS samples. TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 were significantly correlated with MMP-9 in the AD patients. ApoE genotyping of plasma samples showed that levels of MMP-2, TIMP-1 and TIMP-2 and MMP-9 were not significantly different between the ApoE subgroups. These findings indicate that circulating levels of MMP-9 are increased in AD and may contribute to disease pathology.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/S0197-0186(03)00004-4

    View details for Web of Science ID 000182900400002

    View details for PubMedID 12689599

  • Tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases are elevated in cerebrospinal fluid of neurodegenerative diseases JOURNAL OF THE NEUROLOGICAL SCIENCES Lorenzl, S., Albers, D. S., LeWitt, P. A., Chirichigno, J. W., Hilgenberg, S. L., Cudkowicz, M. E., Beal, M. F. 2003; 207 (1-2): 71-76


    Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are implicated in the pathogenesis of diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Increased expression of MMP-9 and TIMPs has been reported in postmortem AD and ALS brain tissue, as well as in ALS cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma. Although individual studies of MMP and TIMP expression in CSF have included AD and ALS samples, there are no studies comparing the expression of these proteins between neurodegenerative diseases. We measured the levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs)-2 and -9 and the tissue inhibitor of MMPs (e.g. TIMP-1 and TIMP-2) in CSF samples from patients with Parkinson's Disease (PD), Huntington's Disease (HD), AD and ALS as compared to age-matched control patients. There was constitutive expression of the proform of gelatinase A (proMMP-2) on zymography gels in all CSF samples. Unexpectedly, there was an additional gelatinolytic band at 130 kDa of unknown etiology in the CSF samples of patients with PD (61% of patients studied), AD (61%), HD (25%) and ALS (39%). Levels of TIMP-1 were significantly elevated in CSF samples from all disease groups. TIMP-2 was significantly increased in CSF of AD and HD patients. MMP-2 levels did not differ significantly between groups. These findings show that TIMPs are elevated in the CSF of patients with neurodegenerative diseases suggesting a potential role of these endogenous inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases in neurodegenerative diseases.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000181533500012

    View details for PubMedID 12614934