Children’s National Hospital is helping to improve the way pediatric celiac disease is diagnosed and treated. We are proud to announce that Vahe Badalyan, M.D., is the new director of our Celiac Disease Program. Here, Dr. Badalyan tells us more about his work and what makes the Children’s National Celiac Disease Program unique.
Why did you decide to work in this field?
I developed my interest in gastroenterology (GI) from the first months of being a pediatric intern at Inova Fairfax Children’s Hospital. As a resident, I was fortunate to work with and learn from the pediatric GI group led by Ian Leibowitz, M.D., whose mentorship and example inspired me to choose a career in pediatric GI. This field is ripe with so many opportunities to improve the lives of children with very diverse medical conditions, such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease and short bowel syndrome, while achieving professional fulfillment and satisfaction. Later, as a pediatric GI fellow at Children’s National, I was fortunate to work with the late John Snyder, M.D., who was in the foundation of developing our celiac program and was so passionate about helping children and families cope with celiac disease. Part of the reason I joined the celiac program is to continue Dr. Snyder’s legacy and to build on his vision to provide excellent care, education and advocacy for our celiac patients.
What is the importance of the multidisciplinary clinic approach for celiac care?
The advantage of the multidisciplinary clinic approach is that patients receive comprehensive care that is tailored to their specific needs. In this setting, medical, nutrition and mental health professionals come together to share the care priorities from their unique perspectives and build a roadmap for the patient that incorporates details of care that may otherwise have been missed. Patient questions pertaining to multiple specialties can be discussed and answered right then and there.
What are some of the most valuable changes or advancements for the program you hope to see in the next couple of years?
We hope to expand the screening and diagnosis of celiac disease in our communities, as many patients with celiac have minimal or no symptoms and go undiagnosed for years. Early detection will allow us to get involved sooner in patients’ lives and make a bigger difference for them. We also hope to be a part of clinical research on celiac disease, including drug therapy trials.
What makes the Celiac Program at Children’s National unique from other programs in the country?
We place a big emphasis on mental health and have a dedicated psychologist working with the children and their families. We also have an excellent celiac educator, dietician, coordinator and nurse practitioner who empower our patients to cope with celiac, lead normal lives and achieve their dreams and aspirations.