Meet a Health Hero: Dr. Senbagam Virudachalam

"Health and healthy choices do not have to be complicated."

» You can vote for Dr.Virudachalam here from August 22nd through September 18th.

Dr. Senbagam Virudachalam

Role: Pediatrician and leader of the Home Plate program, an initiative to combat childhood obesity in low-income families with preschoolers, at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

What motivates you to try and make Philadelphia a healthier place?
My patients are my biggest motivation for trying to make Philadelphia healthier. As a pediatrician, my mission is to ensure that children in Philadelphia and beyond have the opportunity to be their best selves, live whole and happy lives, and, ultimately, become productive citizens of their communities. Through my work developing and evaluating a program to help Philadelphia parents cook nutritious food for their families, I remain encouraged that change is possible and this mission is achievable.

Describe a health or fitness-related turning point in your life.
One of my first patients was a 16-year-old girl named Anna (note: patient’s name was changed for privacy). I’ll never forget what she told me: “I’d like to eat healthier, but my mom doesn’t cook or go grocery shopping. I could shop and cook for my whole family, but then I wouldn’t have any time to study. I really want to go to college.” Anna’s story is not unique. Witnessing my patients’ challenges and successes over the years has made me devote my career to ensuring that every child gets to eat three nourishing meals every day.

What policy would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
I would ensure that all Philadelphia children have regular access to nourishing foods. This means making sure that parents are able to provide healthy, tasty food at home and that childcare centers and schools are equipped to provide fresh, well-balanced meals for their students. 

What’s the most important part of your health or wellness regimen?
For me, keeping things simple is the most important part of staying healthy. I try to eat several fruits and vegetables every day, cook whenever I can, sleep at least eight hours per night, and exercise. I make sure to get outside with my dog daily, breathe fresh air, and practice gratitude.

What is your number one piece of health-related advice or encouragement?
Health and healthy choices do not have to be complicated. If you are trying to make changes in your life, choose one goal that is really important to you. Keep it simple and concrete, and try to stick to it every day for at least a week before you add onto it. For example, if you want to be more active, you could start by taking the stairs to your office once a day instead of the elevator. Eventually, you might work up to going to the gym regularly, but starting with something simple will get the ball rolling and make you healthier in the process.

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