Spotlight on Dr. Polk

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Spotlight on Dr. Polk


My Biography

I became a pediatric gastroenterologist because...

My career began to take shape for me while I was in medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. 

There, I was surrounded by the guidance of several key professors and they played a significant role in helping me find my way towards a direction that I would take for my life. 

My professor of anatomical sciences, Dr. Scheving, introduced me to epidermal growth factor (EGF), a protein that ultimately became the focus of my research. Other mentors on campus, including my physiology professor, Dr. James Pasley, influenced me to select academic medicine as my life's pursuit.

From there, I have been able to study and collaborate with individuals during residency, fellowship, and as a faculty member, who contributed incredible work towards the field that I now research and provide care in.

I chose Children's Hospital Los Angeles because...

Los Angeles is a phenomenal place to provide care for children. We’re talking about a city that has the largest number of children in the United States, so in terms of having an opportunity to impact child health and how health care is delivered, I can imagine no better place. 

Plus, the clinical care here is outstanding. The faculty is enthusiastic about delivering the finest care and asking how best to do that in the future. One of our challenges will be to make this wonderful resource available to more families in the broader community.

My Role at Children's

 What my job means...

My role at Children's is multi-faceted. As physician-in-chief and vice-president of the hospital and as a director of The Saban Research Institute, it may seem like I do a lot of different things, but from my perspective I actually try to focus on just a few.

I greatly enjoy seeing great medical education in action - for that you need to provide strong medical programs to teach the clinical aspects of medicine. I love providing patient care, and when you love doing something it's easy to pass that passion on to medical and graduate students. 

The hospital also needs strong research programs to inspire the next generation of physician-scientists. Physician-scientists have a very important role in linking discoveries at the bench with patient care, and in taking questions that develop while caring for patients back to the bench. Questions asked well can lead to improved health care in the future and it's my role to ensure that we're asking the right questions that give us the best chance to improve health for children. 

Strategic Initiatives

Opening a New Hospital Building

One of my roles is to assist in opening the Marion and John E. Anderson Pavilion. This new facility is more than a building - it represents a significant expansion in our ability to deliver the highest quality care in a family-focused environment.

Our Anderson Pavilion is going to be second to none in the world when it opens. With our new facilities, our efforts in personalized medicine and our synergy with the University of Southern California, Children's Hospital Los Angeles is an exciting place for a physician-scientist to be right now.

Other Projects

As I look to the future, some of my goals will include:

  • Strengthening the partnership between our hospital and the Keck School of Medicine of USC across our shared research, education, healthcare delivery, and advocacy missions.
  • Galvanizing the development of systems that provide hospital services to more families and children across the region.
  • Recruiting scientists who will build on the strengths of our hospital, the Saban Research Institute and the Keck School of Medicine to develop impactful research programs that result in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting child health and development.



Medical School
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Internship & Residency
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital; Pediatrics

Stanford University School of Medicine; Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition

Gastroenterology, American Board of Pediatrics 


  • Distinguished Alumnus (2009)
  • University of Arkansas Grant W. Liddle Award (2009)
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Top 100 Pediatricians (2004 - 09)
  • Best Doctors in America (2005 - 09)
  • America's Top Pediatricians (2007 - 09)
  • Turner Scholar Award
  • Vanderbilt University

Presidential Scholar

  • Ouachita University 



  • American Gastroenterological Association Institute Council
  • National Institutes of Diabetes Subcommittee (NIH)
  • Digestive and Kidney Diseases Committee (NIH)

United States Organizer & Scientific Advisor

  • World Congress of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Advisory Board Member

  • University of San Francisco's Digestive Diseases Center


  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Pediatric Society
  • American Gastroenterological Association 
  • American Physiological Society
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition
  • Society for Pediatric Research

Chapter Author: 
Conn's Current Therapy (2005)

Chapter Author:
Conn's Current Therapy (2006)