• Research

    Meet Khushboo Gala, M.B.B.S. — Finding fulfillment in helping others

Khushboo S. Gala, M.B.B.S. is a gastroenterology fellow in the Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education. She cares for patients and conducts clinical research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr. Gala recently became a Kern Health Care Delivery Scholar, commencing a mentored training and research program within the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. As a scholar, her research project focuses on helping people with obesity, through the development and validation of a shared decision-making tool for holistic weight management.

Following is an interview with Dr. Gala marking entry into the scholars program:

What moment or experience in your life influenced your decision to be a clinician?

I was very lucky to have very strong and positive influences in the form of my parents. Both of them are doctors — my mom is an ophthalmologist, and my dad is an ear, nose and throat surgeon. As I was growing up, many of our dinner table conversations centered around their work. I was fascinated by the science, intrigued by the complexity and enthralled by the fulfillment of medicine as a career choice.

I toyed with other career choices in my growing years, but ultimately chose to go to medical school because I could not find another career option where the work was as impactful and fulfilling.

What motivated you to become a Kern Health Care Delivery Scholar?

My passion for health services research was kindled during medical school and residency. Medical school in India opened me up to health care in resource-limited settings. During medical school, I realized that it was very important to adapt the standard of care treatment to the patient's circumstances.

My residency experience has been unique among many generations of doctors. The COVID-19 pandemic really exposed the cracks in the health care system. An already-struggling system was suddenly overwhelmed, and the patients that seemed to be affected most were those who were most vulnerable in the first place. This made me take a step back and reflect. There have been so many rapid advancements in medical science, but have we truly learned how to serve patients better?

While at the University of Louisville for my residency, there also came a time of cultural reawakening in the U.S., and specifically in Louisville, Kentucky, spurred by the death of Breonna Taylor. Training during this difficult time made me realize that along with research in clinical medicine, I wanted to learn how to improve the systems that deliver health care to patients. I realized that it was not just about the treatments that we offer as clinicians, but also the systems we have in place for patients to gain access to these treatments that make a big difference in health care.

What is your focus and goal as a scholar within the Mayo Clinic Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery?

My clinical and research focus is obesity and endoscopic therapy for obesity. I will be using the Kern Health Care Delivery Scholars Program grant to work on a shared decision-making tool for managing and treating obesity. My goal is to develop and pilot a shared decision-making tool this year that can be easily incorporated into clinical practice at both the primary care and specialist level.

Tell us about your mentoring team.

I am extremely lucky to have a team of leaders in this field guiding me. Victor M. Montori, M.D., and Juan P. Brito Campana, M.B.B.S., are my method mentors, and Andres J. Acosta, M.D., Ph.D., is my content mentor. I am working closely with the team in Dr. Montori's Knowledge and Evaluation Research Unit.

How will your research transform or improve patient care, or affect public health?

My research is aimed at creating a shared decision-making tool for managing and treating obesity. Shared decision-making has been shown to improve patient outcomes and values-congruent decisions. It is especially important in diseases like obesity, in which patients and their care teams have a plethora of options and where management is often quite individualized.

There is a huge amount of unfiltered information available, but patients rarely have a holistic, balanced resource for looking at all the pros and cons of the options available to them. Modern health care, with limited time provided for each patient interaction, makes lengthy discussions with patients rare.

This is where I believe decision-making tools come in handy. They help provide succinct, evidence-based information, which aids conversations in the office and helps patients make choices that are truly in line with their beliefs and likings. The tools advance a humane environment in the doctor's office and empower patients to be actively engaged in their treatments rather than being dictated to by health care providers.

Why did you choose Mayo Clinic to pursue your career?

When I moved to the U.S. for medical training, my goal was to become a well-trained clinician and embark on a career in clinical research as well. While applying for fellowship programs, I found that Mayo Clinic's mission was strikingly similar to my own — Mayo wants to train doctors to excel in all three "shields" of clinical practice, education and research.

Every person I spoke to during my interview exuded kindness, humility and genuine interest in furthering the careers of their mentees. I knew within the first 30 minutes of a video interview that this was a place where I would thrive. That decision has proved right in my time here so far.

I can say with the utmost confidence that finding another learning environment as supportive and with as many opportunities as Mayo is likely impossible — no matter where you looked in the world. I am confident that at the end of my training, I will not only have a well-rounded education but will also have role models that I will look up to for a lifetime.

Tell us three words that describe you.

Positive, collegial and well-organized.

Outside of work, what is one thing you like to do?

I love nature and the outdoors. I love hiking, especially with my significant other. I find peace in the quiet harmony of trees and plants, and some of my best thoughts come to me during my daily run outdoors.