reporting pixel for marketing campaign

Campus News / News

Alum Dr. Kara Wada (‘06) wants to bring light to invisible illnesses

01/20/2023 10:20 am


By Sara Myers | January 20, 2023

Many things have changed in Dr. Kara Wada’s life since graduating from Rockford University (then Rockford College) in 2006.

For one, her last name has changed. Dr. Wada (formerly Simonson) met her husband, Dr. Akira Wada, on the first day of medical school. Dr. Akira Wada is an advanced imaging cardiologist.

The Wadas now have three children together: seven year-old Charlotte; four year-old Josephine; and one year-old Oliver. Home is now in Columbus, Ohio, where both doctors were placed during their residency in medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. 

“The programs put their top applicants in rank order and the computer decides where you end up,” Dr. Kara Wada said. “That’s how my husband and I ended up in Columbus, Ohio. It was where we matched.”

Since that match 12 years ago, the couple have made Columbus their home, despite having no family connections. Dr. Wada works at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as an allergist and immunologist. In 2017, Dr. Wada was brought on as faculty at the university. 

However, just a year later, Dr. Wada started feeling burnout which was in addition to some health issues she began experiencing.

“I ended up being diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and got pretty sick and I ended up cutting my hours in the office and re-evaluating things,” Dr. Wada said. 

She was diagnosed with the autoimmune condition Sjogren’s syndrome, a disorder of your immune system which can commonly cause dry eyes and a dry mouth, according to

Her diagnosis was a turning point for Dr. Wada. Following this, she created her own online business the Crunchy Allergist, became certified in lifestyle medicine and as a life coach, and started a podcast in 2022. 

In 2022, Wada has also revisited a passion of hers that started during her years at RU: competing in pageants. During her studies, she competed in the Winnebago County Queen competition. Dr. Wada was always a fan of getting dressed up and thought it would be great to earn another scholarship to pay for her education (Dr. Wada was awarded one of the Presidential Scholarships during her time at RU). 

Wada entered and received runner up at the Winnebago County Queen Pageant. Her RU classmate and fellow pageant competitor Stephanie Sharp and another mentor of her’s encouraged her to continue competing. 

Wada won the Miss Freeport competition and competed at the Miss Illinois competition on two occasions during her undergraduate years. 

“I figured this is great,” she said. “I won some scholarship money. It was really fun and I met some amazing women who I still keep in touch with and are doing really cool things in the world.”

Cut to 2022, Dr. Wada figured the pageant life was far behind her as a mother of three and doctor. Then, on social media she found out about the Dr. America pageant competitions. 

“It essentially had a lot of the same values and opportunities as Miss America,” she said. “I thought it’ll be a fun experience to share with my daughters and it’ll be a great way to get involved with the Columbus and Central Ohio community and a platform to really bring my passion for invisible illnesses.”

She explained that invisible illnesses are health conditions that the world cannot see outward. These conditions include autoimmune conditions, long COVID-19 or mental health conditions. The condition that Dr. Wada has, Sjogrens, affects up to one in 100 people and 90% are women.

“I figured if I could show people that I can make Sjogrens sparkle that this would be a really fun, experience and opportunity,” she said. “So, I competed for Dr. America in October and got first runner-up. I will be completing this October as Dr. Midwest and trying to take the crown.”

Her work as an allergist and immunologist is always at the forefront of her mind. Her education at RU is something she has been revisiting and grateful for in the last few years.

“When I first toured (RU), I met Dr. (Deborah) Breiter,” Wada said.  I thought this is a really incredible woman who is doing great work in her field and also succeeding in family life too. It would have been probably my junior year. She and her husband collaborated and offered an immunology course and that was my absolute favorite class.”

Wada said she is now re-learning that same material in a slightly different context for much of the work she has done in the last couple years during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Having that background and knowing how certain lab tests are run and some of the nuances of the science and the technology continued to be really helpful.” she said. 

For more on Dr. Wada, visit her website at