Pediatric surgeon Varun “Bubby” K. Bhalla, MD, is one of just three physicians in the nation to receive this year’s Avery Award. The Avery Award is presented by the Avery’s Angels Gastroschisis Foundation and recognizes clinicians and researchers exemplifying patient-centered care and a commitment to gastroschisis advocacy. Bhalla is a member of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group.
Gastroschisis is a rare, congenital birth defect of the abdominal wall that affects approximately 1,800 babies each year.
“I am truly grateful and honored to receive this award from Avery’s Angels, especially for something that I consider the utmost privilege – to care for children,” said Bhalla. “Establishing a lasting personal relationship with the family is just one facet of this journey that I welcome and embrace, as we work together to help the child and family navigate through challenging times.”
Bhalla was nominated by Malinda Ward, mother of 7-month-old Kaiden Hamilton, who was born with gastroschisis and required immediate surgery. Kaiden required five surgical procedures during the four months she spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
“Kaiden has blossomed at home, but only has a certain amount of bowel to absorb the nutrients she needs. She loves to eat and is followed closely by her pediatric gastroenterologist, Dr. Yuliya Rekhtman. Getting Kaiden home from NICU was the biggest blessing in the world. I love her to pieces!” said Ward.
“Dr. Bubby Bhalla deserves this award for so many reasons,” said Ward. “He is one of the most humble humans I’ve ever met, and from day one, has cared about our daughter. He saved Kaiden’s life and we will be forever grateful. Dr. Bhalla has always been one phone call away for any question or concern I’ve had and has always been in my corner with every decision I’ve made about Kaiden. We love Dr. Bhalla. He’s family now!”
Bhalla is board certified in general surgery, surgical critical care and pediatric surgery. The Palmetto Health-USC Pediatric Surgery team also includes physicians Dr. Stanton Adkins, Dr. Juan Camps, Dr. Bhairav Shah, and nurse practitioners Hank Gaw, Karen Goon-Johnson and Allison Lewis.