Q: Was there a moment in your life that you remember thinking, “I want to be a doctor?”
A: At the at the end of my first year in college, I had the opportunity to do research at Loyola University Medical Center. This is where I first became exposed to medicine. There, I had the opportunity to see heart bypass surgeries and also see the patients after surgery with my mentor. I was fascinated with how smoothly my mentor was able to execute the intricate steps of each surgery and how everyone worked as a team together in the operating room. After the surgery, patients truly had a better lifestyle and were grateful to the entire team. Being able to make such a big difference in someone’s life is what attracted me to medicine. It's truly a unique experience to guide a patient from their initial diagnosis, to surgery to full recovery.
Q: Who inspired you throughout your career?
A: I have had great mentors throughout my career but one that inspired me the most during my early training was Dr. Mathew Chung. He is a surgical oncologist in Michigan who specializes in treating complex abdominal cancers. Not only is Dr. Chung a great surgeon, he is also a hard worker who went out of his way to provide exceptional care for his patients. He produced outstanding results while performing some of the most difficult cancer surgeries. He always had a sense of humor and that put his patients and his entire team at ease, even during some of the most difficult situations. In addition, Dr. Chung loves to teach and was a great mentor during my training. He tailored his teaching style to each student to ensure that they walked away with full grasp of the subject matter. His compassion for his patients and coworkers inspired me to do the same in my career.
Q: What attracted you to the hand and upper extremity specialty?
A: Hand and upper extremity anatomy is one of the most complex and intricate in the body. It is truly fascinating how this anatomy gives us our sense of touch which helps us create art, music, food, play sports, and allows us to show love and compassion with a touch of hand. I was first exposed to the field of hand surgery during my plastics fellowship. I treated many traumatic conditions like fractures, tendon and nerve injuries. As a hand surgeon, we are not only able to work with fixing fractures but are also able to use the microscope to fix very small vessels and nerves. With each repair, we restore function to the hand which enables that patient to go on to create and pursue their passions. Each case in hand surgery is individually challenging in that it requires not only a solid understanding of anatomy, but it also requires creativity and precise technical skills to solve a problem.
Q: You have accomplished many things during your life and career, is there one accomplishment you are particularly proud of?
A: One of the most challenging times of my life was immigrating from India as a child. It is difficult for a young child to make new friends in a new country, learn the culture and simultaneously do well in school. With hard work and full support from my family, I was able to do well both in and outside of school. With hard work and perseverance, I was able to successfully adjust to a new life and a new home. Eventually, I was able to attend a well-respected university, graduate with highest distinction, and pursue a life in medicine. I am tremendously proud of that achievement and use my own experiences to help patients face the challenges that are in front of them.
Q: Can you describe a moment in your practice that stood out to you above all others?
A: Recently, I treated a high school baseball player who had a deep cut on his thumb with serious injuries to his tendons and nerves. He was not able to bend his thumb and had no sensation at the tip. During surgery, I was able to fix the torn tendon and both of the damaged nerves using a microscope. After undergoing physical therapy, he regained excellent motion of his thumb and his sensation also returned. He was extremely happy as he was able to resume playing baseball for this high school team and will try to play at a collegiate level as well. Helping this young man achieve normal function and being able to give him a chance to pursue his passion for baseball was extremely gratifying.
Q: When you meet with a patient for the first time, what is the most important part of that interaction?
A: It is extremely important that my patients and I work together as a cohesive team and, as teammates, we must have excellent communication and rapport. So, when I meet a patient for the first time, I work on establishing trust so that they feel comfortable openly sharing with me their concerns. With this in mind, I can give the most suitable treatment options whether it is surgical or nonsurgical, and as a team, we make a game plan that we will execute together. We will go through surgery and recovery together to make sure the patient attains the best possible function and outcome.
Q: If you could go back in time to when you were young in your career, is there anything you would do differently?
A: One thing that does come to mind is that while I was busy with a rigorous surgical training, I did not have enough time to volunteer my skills for those in need in underserved countries. I plan to make up for that and look forward to partaking in international volunteer opportunities where plastics and hand surgeons are not readily available.
Q: When you’re not practicing, what do you like to do in your free time?
A: When at home, my family keeps me busy and entertained. My wife and I have two young kids who love to play and read with their dad. As a family, we also like to travel and have been fortunate enough to see many unique parts of the world. I also love sports and enjoy playing pickup basketball with friends on the weekends. I am also a big fan of our Chicago teams and love to watch them play in my free time.
Q: Why MidAmerica?
A: MidAmerica truly offers a place where patients are able to get complete care in one location, saving them valuable time. Not only are there in-house diagnostic services such as X-rays and MRIs, but therapy services are also on site. In hand surgery, therapy after surgery is an important component of the final outcome. MidAmerica has dedicated hand therapists who will work with the patients very closely.
MidAmerica also has a surgery center, and it is very efficient saving patients time. MidAmerica also offers immediate care services and thus patients are able to come directly to our specialists without going to the ER first. Finally, the staff that makes up MidAmerica is what truly makes it special, and they will treat patients with the utmost respect and professionalism.
For more information on Dr. Patel vist his physician page here.