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Relatives' plight inspired 'Hiren' Patel to pursue career as rheumatologist

MARSHALL – As Hirenkumar “Hiren” Patel was growing up and attending school in India, he had no idea that he would become the first in his family to become a physician. 

A family medical challenge led the young man to consider and pursue a career as a rheumatologist – a practice he now has continued for nearly two decades, most recently as one of the newest members of the Oaklawn medical team. 

As of early July, Patel will be based in Suite 1E in the Marshall Primary Care Office in the Wright Medical Building, 215 E. Mansion St. Appointments are to be made through referrals from primary-care or other physicians.

Like many others who find themselves propelled into medical careers, Patel’s story began with his observation early in life of an affliction affecting the lives of others. 

Patel was a student at D.N. High School in Anand – a town in the western state of Gujarat in India – during the time that two of his cousins were struck with severe rheumatic disease.

“I watched them suffer because they had severe joint pain in their hands and knees,” he said. “At the time, there was no rheumatologist in our area. There was nothing in the entire state that offered the kind of medical help they needed.”

Patel was about 15 years old at the time. The experience compelled him to learn more about the area of medicine that might have helped his cousins, he said.

“I wanted to learn why this condition happened and to go to medical school to learn all the new advances,” he said. 

In so doing, he received unquestioning encouragement from his family. 

“In India, doctors are highly respected,” Patel said. “In a lower- to middle-class family in India, a good education is the most important thing to help people move forward. Because my parents always emphasized education from the beginning, I always had a lot of support.” 

While in India from 1999 to 2002, Patel served as a volunteer in a World Health Organization polio-immunization program, a government-operated school health program and in earthquake relief operations. 

Meanwhile, Patel pursued medical studies at Gujarat University’s B.J. Medical College in Ahmedabad, receiving a bachelor of medicine/bachelor of surgery degree in 2003. 

After moving to the United States and becoming a U.S. citizen, Patel pursued his residency in internal medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital in the state of New York, completing the program in 2008. 

Patel went on to become chief resident in primary care at Northport (Virginia) Medical Center, then undertook a fellowship in rheumatology at the Stony Brook hospital and worked as a rheumatology physician at a Florida-based arthritis and osteoporosis treatment center.

Patel comes to Oaklawn after having served as a rheumatology physician for the Parkview Physicians Group in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he now resides. 

Patel has been certified in rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine since 2008. He is a member of the American College of Rheumatology and is licensed to practice medicine in Michigan, Indiana, Florida and New York. In addition to English, he speaks Gujarati – the dialect of his native state – as well as Hindi. 

In his spare time, Patel enjoys listening to music – especially of the “Bollywood” variety – and cooking spicy food. In sports, he prefers watching American football as well as cricket.

He and Nikita Patel, his wife of 18 years, have two daughters – 14-year-old Niya and 9-year-old Risha. He said that, once their children have completed their school year, the family will consider moving to the Marshall area. 

“I have passed through Marshall and stopped there many times while traveling to visit family members in Michigan,” he said. “It’s convenient, and Marshall has the sort of rural setting that I enjoy.”

In fact, Oaklawn’s broad service area – ranging from Calhoun County into neighboring countries – helped Patel in his decision to join its medical team.

“It’s a large-draw area that serves a lot of patients, as I’ve done in Fort Wayne,” he said. “That’s what I like.”

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