Kathleen Clem received her associate in science in nursing in 1977 and her bachelor of science in nursing in 1982. She received her MD from Loma Linda University in 1989 and completed her residency in emergency medicine at Loma Linda, serving as chief resident in 1993. From 1993 to 1998, she served as the director of International Emergency Medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Loma Linda.
Dr. Clem came to Duke University in 1998 as an attending physician in the Division of Emergency Medicine within the Department of Surgery. She served as the first chief of the division from 1999 to 2007 in the male-dominated Department of Surgery. While chief of the division, she began the Emergency Medicine academic and clinical programs. She has served on numerous committees concerning emergency medicine and women in medicine at Duke. She returned to Loma Linda in 2007 to serve as chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.