Photos by Bethany Hughes
What you will find is a man who thinks outside of the box, has an unstoppable drive to be innovative and forward thinking, and has a love for the people of Topeka and Kansas.
Challa, co-founder and president of Kansas Medical Clinic, moved to Topeka 27 years ago to start his Gastroenterology practice. Dr. Challa said he liked Topeka because it was ideal.
“We liked the smaller city, close to a big city and close to a big college,” Challa said.
Over the past two decades, Challa has been busy changing Kansas’ medical technology.
“If you are going to think and dream, you might as well think and dream big,” Challa said.
In 1997, Challa created a way for the people of Kansas to get better medical care by founding Osteoporosis Services, which is the largest bone density testing company in the Midwest. Challa devised a mobile unit that enabled technicians to service rural hospitals. At its peak, Challa said they served more than 150 rural hospitals and were in eight different states that do not normally have access to bone density testing.
Challa has continued to seek simpler, more cost effective ways to treat his patients and the people of Kansas. He was the first doctor in the state to use the Bravo capsule, a test for measuring acid reflux. Then he introduced the small bowel capsule that allows doctors to view the small intestine. Next, he began using Halo ablation, which removes diseased esophageal tissue, and, most recently, has introduced the Fibroscan, which measures the amount of fatty tissue in the liver.
Challa said he has always been fascinated with liver disease, and that obesity and diabetes, which are both on the rise, contribute to liver disease.
“Every one of these directly or together can cause what we call fatty liver, or fat disposition in the liver,” Challa said.
Before the Fibroscan, the only way to detect fatty liver was to do a liver biopsy. Challa said a liver biopsy is both invasive and expensive. In addition, the sample size is small and pathologists can have different diagnoses. The new Fibroscan measures 100 times more area of the liver than a biopsy, is less expensive and non-invasive.
“One of the beauties of the liver is that it is the only organ that can regenerate, meaning it can form new cells,” Challa said. “So when we know the reason for whatever problem the liver has, we can suggest lifestyle changes and then we are able to follow the progress of improvement and it’s non-invasive.”
Even though Challa has had many successes, he admits there have been some failures along the way. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“Failure is good,” Challa said. “It gives you a new perspective. It’s not all easy so you enjoy your successes better if you have failures along the way. The key is perseverance. You get back up and get going.”
Challa certainly is “going.” Kansas Medical Clinic has seen significant growth over the years.
“Innovation fascinates me and that’s why we, today, are the largest privatelyowned dermatology group in Kansas,” Challa said.