From a small village in India, to a small Caribbean island, to now working as an internal medicine resident in the United States, Dr. Dhaval Patel’s route to practicing medicine hasn’t been a straight line. What has always stayed with him is his interest in diagnosis and problem solving, qualities that help him carry out his physician duties during a crucial time in healthcare.
“I grew up in a small village named Maretha, helping my father on our family farm,” he said. “In that time, water was scarce in our village and we needed to be innovative for our farm to flourish with the least amount of water possible. The wilting and color change of our crops were the symptoms, the lack of water was the constraint, and the treatment we created—a drip irrigation system—saved us from a year of struggle.
“After this experience, I applied that mindset of curiosity, diagnosis, and innovation in other aspects of my life. Curiosity paved the way to my degree in pharmacy.”
In 2012, he moved with his family to New York City where he began practicing as a pharmacist. “I enjoyed my work because I was fascinated with learning how medications worked and how they treated or prevented certain illnesses, but I felt unsatisfied. I wanted more.”
Dr. Patel began seeking opportunities to move into working directly with patients and shadowed doctors at hospitals and family practices before deciding on making a permanent move into medicine.
“I chose to study at St. George’s University because it offers a pathway into practicing in the US and it’s one of the top schools in the Caribbean,” he said. “The number of US residences filled by SGU graduates was also very impressive and I knew it was well respected by my peers.”
Dr. Patel fully immersed himself in the SGU experience and, alongside studying, became a member of the University’s Student Government Association as well as playing cricket for the SGU team. He also joined a group of students volunteering their expertise to local people who couldn’t afford health insurance.
“Island life was wonderful,” he said. “Grenada is beautiful and the people are lovely. I also met my wife at SGU, and she’s also practicing medicine in the US.”
Academically, Dr. Patel also thrived and found his passion in internal medicine, “during my medical school rotations, I had the opportunity to work at many different hospitals across the country, each one providing me with new and valuable skills. My favorite rotation, by far, was internal medicine. I was able to apply the same curiosity, diagnosis, and innovation mentality that I had applied growing up on a farm in India on actual patients.”
He is now completing a three-year residency in internal medicine at a hospital in Ohio for what he describes as “a very underserved community” with a lot of substance misuse problems. “The biggest issues for the community living near the hospital is a lack of education about health. Many people don’t recognize symptoms or the severity of issues. COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem because many people are too fearful to come to hospital or seek help if they’re feeling unwell.”
Dr. Patel credits SGU with teaching him to manage his time efficiently and to look after his own mental wellbeing. “I learned to complete my studies and create leisure time to enjoy sports and nature. I also learned the skills and ethos to give back to others.”
He and his wife plan to regularly visit Maretha throughout their careers to provide free healthcare for people living there. “Resources are limited there and it’s at least 45 minutes to the nearest hospital,” Dr. Patel said. “People can’t afford to see doctors or have medical insurance so our ambition is to set up a medical center where they can access free health care.
“I want to help people achieve happy and healthy lives,” he continued. “From pharmacy to medicine, from a farm boy in India to a doctor in America, I have embraced every challenge and learned from them. I am poised to face the next challenge, prepared to learn more, and ready to provide the very best care that my patients deserve.”
– Louise Akers