Featured Researcher – Amrik Khalsa, MD

Featured Researcher – Amrik Khalsa, MD 150 150 Alaina Doklovic

Amrik Khalsa, MD, is a physician and principal investigator in the Center for Child Health Equity and Outcomes Research (CCHEOR) in the Abigail Wexner Research Institute (AWRI) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He is dual medically trained and board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and has research expertise in observational research design, community-engaged research, and intergenerational obesity prevention. His research focuses on reducing disparities and improving outcomes in parental and childhood obesity and its co-morbidities (like cardiovascular disease) through research in primary care prevention.

Dr. Khalsa joined Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the fall of 2018. Since then, he has immersed himself in both research and clinical spaces, seeing and precepting patients at the Nationwide Children’s South High Primary Care Clinic while still focusing on his research within CCHEOR. He is currently designing projects that will examine modifiable targets of parental behaviors to delay the onset of obesity in early childhood.

Dr. Khalsa has always made it his mission to serve his community both through his work at Nationwide Children’s and local volunteer opportunities. As he looks forward, he knows that his contribution to society is to help children and their families stay healthy regardless of socioeconomic barriers. And if that doesn’t work out, he can always pursue his other dream job of becoming a Lego certified professional!

Read on to learn more about Dr. Zhao’s work and research career.

How did you land in your field?

Through my faith and lifelong experiences, I was inspired to become a researcher in reducing health disparities in chronic disease among families. The two most important tenants in my faith are service and helping the less fortunate. While growing up in Detroit, I volunteered with my father every month serving food to the homeless or helping to fix people’s homes through “Paint the Town.” Through conversations with individuals and their families, I learned the importance of humanity and how health can suffer when resources are low. Medical school taught me the importance of prevention and how our health behaviors play an integral role in our future risk of chronic disease. However, socioeconomic barriers often prevented many from being successful in reducing their risk. Thus, I felt my contribution to society could be to help families find ways to be successful in reducing their risk of chronic disease through prevention.

Why did you decide to pursue your work at Nationwide Children’s?

The culture of this institution and support for junior investigators is the main reason my family and I decided to come to Nationwide Children’s. Since being here, my experiences with my peers have only supported this. For example, having only met Dr. Barnard [past president of AWRI and former chief of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s] once previously, I was surprised when he stopped in the middle of the hospital’s blue line to congratulate me on a pilot grant I received from the CCTS within a few months of starting my position. I didn’t even think he remembered me, let alone my name! I have been fortunate to have many more experiences like these – which have inspired and encouraged me to continue my academic pursuits no matter the obstacle.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Meeting the participants and families that volunteer to be part of my research studies! Whether it be young children who are part of our community garden interventions or their parents who come after work to join our focus groups designing novel risk assessment tools, it’s the participants who humble me and inspire me to continue the work I do!

Fun Facts About Dr. Khalsa

What’s your favorite word, and why?

It’s actually a phrase: Chardi kala – which means to maintain a mental state of eternal resilience. Having a positive and optimistic attitude is one of my guiding principles in life!

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

What I eat for breakfast is constantly changing, especially with three young ones at home. However, I strive to get a variety in my diet through oatmeal, chia pudding (with fresh fruit), Paronthe (lentil/vegetable stuffed Indian bread), or whatever else my kids inspire me to try. Don’t forget the coffee and tea!

What would be your dream job if you could do anything (that wasn’t working in research)?

I would love to be a Lego certified professional; there are only 12 worldwide!

What’s your favorite food?

Punjabi curry (a yogurt-based curry) with rice

Favorite way to relax?

Exploring the world through nature. I like nature walks, hikes, cycling, walking across a frozen lake, you name it! Anything where I am outdoors and enjoying God’s creation.

Favorite thing you’ve bought this year?

Rocketbook planner: It is a reusable planner that I can write in with a pen, scan using an app on my phone and then look at wherever I need digitally as well! When I’m done, I can wipe away the pen and reuse my planner as many times as I need. It helps with my ever-changing schedule and gives me multiple ways to look at what’s coming up.

About the author

Alaina Doklovic is a Marketing Specialist for Research Communications at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She received her BS in medical anthropology and English from The Ohio State University. Her passions for science and health, combined with her desire to help others, motivated her to pursue a career in which she could actively help improve patient outcomes and scientific research through writing.