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Physicians with Heart

When people ask Nikhil Chanani, MD, whether he finds it hard to work on holidays, he answers that he’s never found it challenging. For many families, having a hospitalized child is probably the worst experience in a family’s life, but he and the rest of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center staff truly believe that anything they can do to make the experience better is worth it – especially during the holidays when emotions are particularly heightened.

What impresses me about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and CHOA is that everyone works hard, from the most senior members to the most junior, even during the holidays,” Dr. Chanani said. “Everyone is happy to be here, and we all get why we’re here. There is a commitment at every level to take care of patients, and everyone goes above and beyond to do that. No one comes in to just punch a clock. There are many great programs out there, but one thing that makes CHOA unique is its culture, which I think translates into better patient care.”

The larger community seems to agree and often does its part to build up the culture. Dr. Chanani said that in his second year at Sibley, he was rounding in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) on Christmas Day when everyone around him started laughing. He hadn’t noticed, but Santa Claus had quietly joined his rounds and was diligently taking notes, much to the delight of his young patients. Along with visits from Santa, many patient families are also thankful for their experiences at CHOA. At Thanksgiving, the family of a heart patient brings in their family-owned catering company and an army of volunteers to feed Thanksgiving dinner to the entire hospital, both staff and patients. Their commitment is reflected in the presence of all the employees from the catering company who come in on their own day off to volunteer.

“It’s remarkable that even after families have left the hospital, they are so appreciative of Sibley and CHOA that they want to do something to make the holidays in the hospital more enjoyable for others,” Dr. Chanani said.

Dr. Chanani joined Sibley in 2010, after completing his training at Stanford, Harvard and the University of California, San Francisco. His work involves taking care of patients in the CICU, including patients in need of or after heart surgery, or who are critically ill from their cardiac disease. Children’s Heart Center is one of the largest pediatric heart centers in the U.S., and its physicians see a complex mix of patients. Along with clinical care, Dr. Chanani spends his time focused on improving quality and outcomes and sharing these outcomes both at a local and national level.

“We identify the pressure points and weaknesses in the system, and we work really hard to minimize any weaknesses and push our strengths in order to improve patient care,” Dr. Chanani said. “We have seen outcomes improve as we standardize processes and improve communication and consistency. I lead a multidisciplinary team that includes clinically oriented staff, including nurses and therapists, as well as non-clinical experts with a background in process improvement or data analytics.”

Dr. Chanani says that he is constantly looking for improvement and that he feels empowered to be an agent for improvement for his program.

“If I or one of my colleagues identify a barrier to care, shame on me for not trying to remove that barrier, because we have all the tools and resources I need to make the changes I want to see,” Dr. Chanani said. “It’s very satisfying as a clinician to know that you can provide the best possible care for your patients. In the Sibley culture, we don’t sit on our laurels. There is a constant drive for improvement and excellence.”

Dr. Chanani appreciates his Sibley team and co-workers, and he says they enjoy working with one another. Although they all work long hours, they and their families often choose to meet outside of work, where they share a genuine collegiality and friendship.

“People here have good sense of humor, and they’re passionate about life,” he said. “Whatever you do within the four walls of work can be both challenging and meaningful, but what you do outside of work is equally important. We’ve come from all over the country to work at Sibley, which is a place that attracts individuals who are committed to working hard and providing excellent care. We’re here to lift each other up, not step on each other’s backs.”

Nikhil K Chanani, MD

Dr. Chanani, his wife and three boys — 15, 12 and 3 years old — love living in Atlanta and enjoy an active life in the city. Soccer and tennis players who are big fans of Atlanta United and the local tennis scene, they also enjoy sampling the local cuisine and taking vacations with family. Dr. Chanani comes from a large, multi-generation, close-knit family that see each other often. In the past few years alone, they have attended weddings on four continents.

“It’s really easy to live in Atlanta,” Dr. Chanani said. “I feel very lucky to be here.”

Nikhil Chanani, MD

  • Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine
  • Pediatric Cardiologist, Sibley Heart Center Cardiology
  • Cardiac Intensivist, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA),
  • Director, Outcomes and Quality, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), CHOA
  • Medical Director of Outcomes and Quality, Cardiac Service Line, CHOA


  • Medical School: Harvard Medical School
  • Residency: University of California, San Francisco Medical Center
  • Fellowship: University of California, San Francisco Medical Center Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital

Professional Affiliations

  • 2011 – Present – Executive Committee member, Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Consortium (PC4)
  • 2012 – Present – Member, American Heart Association, Cardiovascular Disease in the Young
  • 2012 – Present – Member, PC4 Data Definitions Committee
  • 2015 – Present – Member, LumeDx Pediatric User Group
  • 2016 – Present – Member, Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium
  • 2017 – Present – Member, Quality Committee of Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Society (PCICS)
  • 2018 – Present – Member, PC4 Audit Committee
  • 2019 – Present – Co-Chair, PC4 Data Definitions Committee
  • 2019 – Present – Co-Chair, Program Committee, PCICS

For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.


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