When Nawal Alkharouf MD was a kid, she dreamed of finding a cure for cancer.
“I always liked research — I was a nerdy kid, and medicine was always something I wanted to do.”
She pursued pediatric oncology during her medical training.
“Then I realized my real passion is serving people, not research. I’m most happy when I’m meeting new families,” she says. “In school pediatrics was always an easy fit — I love the different ages and stages of patients I get to meet, and the complexity of the science is so interesting.”
So Dr. Alkharouf left oncology to work in primary care with children, from infants all the way to 21 years old. But she didn’t leave everything she’d learned in cancer research behind.
“In my oncology training we learned never to rush a case and to pay attention to details. It was important to take more time, to go through the body one system at a time to be sure we hadn’t missed anything. I’ve brought that training with me to pediatrics,” she says.
Wellness visits, even when you’re healthy
Dr. Alkharouf loves building long term relationships with families, taking extra time to look at the whole person (both physical and mental well being), go beyond the patient’s immediate concerns to see if there are underlying connections.
“My parents ran a clinic in Jordan where I grew up — the clinic was in the front of our apartment and our living area was behind, so I spent a lot of time there. My parents treated everyone with compassion regardless of their ability to pay. I have vivid memories of patients arriving in distress — parents with sick children — and leaving a little while later feeling comforted by my mother’s treatment,” she says.
Now Dr. Alkharouf brings that comfort to parents at Pacific Medical Centers Canyon Park, where patients often tell her ‘no one has ever spent so much time with me.’
Whether through telemedicine during the pandemic or face-to-face in the clinic, Dr. Alkharouf hopes more parents will reach out for Well Child Visits —even when their immunizations are up to date and the child appears healthy.
“I have so many stories of things I’ve discovered on Well Visits,” she says. “Just a few months ago I found a heart murmur in an eight-year-old, which other providers hadn’t documented. The child was otherwise healthy, but the murmur pointed to an underlying heart defect, which if not corrected could have led to consequences later on.”
Well Visits from an attentive doctor like Dr. Alkharouf can also detect underlying genetic of metabolic conditions, problems with connective tissues, and track cognitive and physical growth in young children.
“Early intervention makes a big difference. Autism, for example, can be detected as young as 18 months, if not earlier. Catching it early on and providing early intervention services can really improve your child’s long-term outcomes.”