As she adapted to her new country, culture and way of life, Patel also sought a balance between her American identity and preserving her culture. Through it all, she found inspiration in her father’s commitment as an orthopedic surgeon helping physically disabled children.
But it wasn’t until she became a teenage counselor at a summer camp for physically disabled children, that she envisioned the road ahead. “I knew then my future would be in health care,” says the Bridgeport-based ophthalmologist and surgeon.
It was while earning her medical degree in New York City at Weill Cornell Medical College, and serving her residency at the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute, that Patel discovered the scope of certain health issues in some ethnic communities, like diabetes and glaucoma in African-Americans and Latinos.
Today, Patel notes these disparities are increasing. “It is our collective responsibility to improve the health of all our citizens by reducing these disparities,” says Patel, who earned her bachelor’s in biology at Columbia University. “Setting such ambitious goals will not only benefit our society, but also ease the burdens on an already strained health care system.”
Ever curious about people and cultures, Patel travels widely. “My journeys have taken me to Africa, Mexico, Canada, Central America and Europe and back to India.” As she travels, the Avon resident recognizes that, “The U.S. is a microcosm of these varied cultures. And when I return, I realize how much there is to learn here in our own backyard.”
Patel can be reached at [email protected]