Kristin Steffen has gone scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, sold multimillion-dollar homes in Florida, given birth to two boys who are serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, written a classical music piece that was played by a symphony, completed more than 30 half-marathons, officiated beach weddings for over 10 years in the Sunshine State, represented the best interests of abused and neglected children in court systems as a volunteer guardian ad litem, and traveled to Uganda to educate locals in culturally sensitive ways on the provisions of Title IX.
And, oh yes, this woman who embodies the “Life is a great big canvas, throw all the paint you can on it” art of living has worked at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV for the last three years, holding the positions of senior director of faculty affairs, interim director of continuing medical education, deputy Title IX coordinator and part-time instructor in the UNLV Executive Master of Healthcare Administration Program.
When she needs some more music in her life, she reaches into her closet at home and pulls her great, great grandfather’s violin off the shelf and plays Bach and Vivaldi from memory.
“I have many interests and I like to act on them,” she said.
So it goes for the soon-to-be grandmother who recently received the Outstanding Part-time Instructor award from the UNLV School of Public Health and who was named as one of 60 fellows from across the nation to participate in the prestigious Association of American Medical Colleges' Leadership Education and Development Program.
At the medical school, her work in the office of faculty affairs includes assisting with the development and oversight of faculty processes in relation to recruitment, retention, appointment, evaluation, tenure and promotion, and professional development. As interim director of the new continuing medical education program at the school, which helps medical professionals refine their skills and stay current with the latest developments in their specialties, she provides operational oversight and direction. Her Title IX role includes preventing discrimination based on sex and gender through education, investigation, and adjudication.
“I thrive in collaborations with others, overcoming challenges, and recognize that this young medical school has so much opportunity to be the key to improving health outcomes in this community,” Steffen said. “It takes grit to get to where we are now and to strive to where we aspire to be…I like the challenge.”
Attorney Peter Navarro, the medical school’s chief compliance officer who frequently works with Steffen, said she is “a collaborator in the truest sense of the word … She cares about the viewpoints of all the people she speaks with … She doesn’t trample on ideas … She builds respectful and trusting relationships…by valuing their shared perspectives. In doing so, she inspires groups to work together to advance the mission of the school … She works hard to build consensus and to get things done.”
Born in Chicago, Steffen grew up in Florida. Her father is Bob Lorentzen, the owner of a video production company and former CBS bureau chief, professor of journalism, and Emmy Award-winner, whose work included coverage of the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for the presidency, and the return of American prisoners of war from North Vietnam in 1972. Her mother, who died in 2018 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer, became the executive director of the public school foundation in Manatee County, Florida, before she retired.
At the age of 5, Steffen began playing the violin, becoming accomplished enough in music to play with the Florida West Coast Symphony (now the Sarasota Orchestra), travel the country with a youth classical music group, and win a composition competition that saw the ensemble play one of her pieces.
Today, frequently after a long day of negotiations, she enjoys the beauty of sunset hikes. That’s the same reason she runs in long-distance races and has presided over weddings on the beach in Florida for free. “As a notary public, I could officiate weddings. It was just fun, a joy to see people happy.”
Her parents taught her the value of a dollar.
“When I got to be 14 and yearned for spending money, I got my first job at Winn Dixie grocery bagging groceries — I rode my bike five miles there and five miles back home,” Steffen recalled. “This instilled in me the work ethic and I’ve been working ever since. When I turned 16, I had to pay for my own car insurance to drive my parents’ cars and also pay them 10 cents a mile for every mile I drove.”
Steffen said learning to be economical with money as a teen — how to move forward even with a tight budget — helped her early career with the state of Florida and county governments and the University of South Florida, USF Health, as well as in her present positions with the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine. Tight budgets do not have to mean institutional paralysis, she said, if strategic management is in place.
Work in government or with medical schools wasn’t on Steffen’s radar when she first started college at Florida State University. “I had received scholarships to pursue a marine biology degree…however, I realized that this career path would likely not sustain a family…I met an executive leader in the state of Florida Department of Revenue and he assisted me with my first professional career position.”
Her love for marine biology has never died, however. She has used vacation time to scuba dive around the world, including at the Great Barrier Reef. “Unfortunately,” she said, “you can see how climate change has affected the ecosystems there.” The reef has lost half of its coral populations in the last quarter century.
Steffen began her career in government in 2001 with the Florida Department of Revenue, Child Support Program, rising to revenue manager. There, she also became a volunteer guardian ad litem of abused and neglected children. “I was a young mother myself. I wanted to help make sure children were taken care of properly.” She remembers representing a boy who was living with his two sisters and paternal grandmother. During her investigation, Steffen found the boy was being seriously neglected and a judge agreed to have the grandmother take supervised steps to ensure he was treated like a member of the family.
In 2006, Steffen began a five-year stint with the Sarasota county government in revenue and contract management. A Realtor’s license she needed to have for her county work would eventually turn into a part-time position in the private sector selling and purchasing residential and commercial properties. “I found that the money I was making part-time in real estate while working in county government was far more than I could make with the county,” said Steffen, who received her bachelor's degree in social science from Florida State. “I had to decide if that’s the full-time career I wanted.”
Instead of pursuing a real estate career full time, however, she found a position in 2011 with USF Health that she believed could grow into one with more responsibility. It did, as she earned master’s degrees in both public health and management. Again she started in contract administration, but within eight years she also became assistant director of health, policy, and safety, deputy Title IX coordinator, and assistant director of programs and outreach. In her Title IX position, she would uncover a sex discrimination case that resulted in personnel changes at the university; her expertise was recognized with her being awarded the Individual Outstanding Achievement Award and appointment as the Chair of the Title IX presidential advisory committee by the USF system. To complement USF public health students traveling to Africa to understand more about global health, Steffen also traveled to Uganda to talk with village elders about how provisions of Title IX could be used there that blended with their culture and beliefs. “It was an amazing experience for me and them, I believe,” she said.
Steffen’s decision to join the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine in 2019 was largely made because she saw more of a chance to make a large difference at a new medical school. While she has enjoyed her work toward bettering health care in Las Vegas — she believes she made a difference when she taught Public Health Fundamentals for Healthcare Leaders for the Executive Master of Healthcare Administration Program — her own health concerns have added to the challenge of helping build a sound professional medical practice in Las Vegas that improves patient and community health. Soon after she arrived in Las Vegas, she learned she would need to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. That would be followed by four reconstruction procedures. “It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “Because of COVID 19, I couldn’t have members of my family in the hospital to support me.”
She is grateful, however, that she’s had her care through UNLV Health. She has been a patient of surgeon Jennifer Baynosa, who completed a breast surgery fellowship at Stanford, and Richard Baynosa, the chief and program director of plastic surgery at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine. The husband-wife duo’s penchant for working together on cases drew the attention of DAVID magazine three years ago after the pair worked together on Clark County school teacher Stephanie Carrell’s bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Like Carrell, Steffen had the Baynosas sit down and explain everything to her.
“I’d never had two doctors sit down together and share honest communication with me before,” Steffen said. “UNLV Health shows the kind of compassion that you want in health care.”