My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Ashish D. Parikh, MD, FACP
Dr. Ashish Parikh has lived in many diverse places in his life, including Calcutta; Mumbai, Tallahassee, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. However, out of all of the places that he has lived, Dr. Parikh feels the most at home in Livingston, New Jersey, where he is the director of the internal medicine residency program at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. The son of a scientific researcher, Dr. Parikh and his family moved often. His father passed along his love of science to Dr. Parikh and inspired him to pursue a career in medicine. "My father often reminded us that we should always do more to help people and to go beyond what is expected of us." While in high school, Dr. Parikh was accepted into the prestigious Honors Program in Medical Education at the University of Miami in Florida, a dual-degree program that allowed him to receive a both a Bachelor of Science and a Doctor of Medicine degree. After completing medical school, Dr. Parikh did his residency and internship at Miriam Hospital, which is associated with Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he received "The Best Teaching Resident Award" two years in a row.
Following his residency training, Dr. Parikh accepted a position as a member of the clinical faculty with the University of Connecticut primary care internal medicine residency program in New Britain, Connecticut. Dr. Parikh realized how much he enjoyed teaching and interacting with medical students. "I realized that as much as I enjoyed seeing patients, I really loved interacting with medical students and teaching. That experience solidified my decision to pursue a career in academic medicine."
Dr. Parihk with his wife, Smruti, and their two daughters on Halloween.
When Dr. Parikh's wife, Smruti, finished medical school, she matched at a residency program in Los Angeles, so the couple made the cross-country move. Dr. Parikh accepted a position as a general internist and hospitalist with the Southern California Permanente Medical Group and enjoyed the warm weather of southern California but missed the academic part of the profession. After his wife completed her residency, they moved back to New Jersey where Dr. Parikh was offered the position of assistant program director of the internal medicine program at the Saint Barnabas Medical Center.
Currently, Dr. Parikh balances his time as program director with his role of assistant professor of medicine at The St. Georges University School of Medicine and New Jersey Medical School. As program director, Dr. Parikh supervises and runs the administrative aspects of the internal medicine residency program. "What I enjoy most about my job is the variety that I have, every day is different." His current role keeps his schedule busy but he finds it extremely rewarding. Dr. Parikh is responsible for interviewing every candidate who applies to the internal medicine residency program, creating the ranking list for the residency program as well as ensuring that the trainees are receiving the proper education in order to prepare them for life beyond residency. In addition to his duties as program director, Dr. Parikh sees patients in the internal medicine primary care clinic and gives lectures to the residents and medical students.
Since the residency program is affiliated with New Jersey Medical School and St. Georges University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies, Dr. Parikh has the opportunity to work with students from very geographically diverse backgrounds. The 36 residents in the Saint Barnabas Medical Center come from 18 different countries. "It is a great experience getting the chance to work with such a diverse group. Whether it's a student bringing in their favorite ethnic dish or learning how students would treat a medical condition in their culture, you are always learning something new."
What he loves most about his job is the time he spends with medical students. He has the opportunity to mentor medical students on career development, what fellowships and internships to choose, or whether to pursue a subspecialty. "By the time students enter their residency they have spent 12 years in school, 4 years in college and another 4 years in medical school. When they reach their residencies they are so eager to put on the white lab coat and start seeing patients, it's really amazing to see the culmination of all of their efforts come through."
Although Dr. Parikh has come a long way from his residency, he can still remember many of the challenges that residents face. "I think the hardest part for me was learning how to deal with a difficult patient and to not take it personally. It took me a while to understand that many patients are sick and are often really scared. Making the patient understand that you are both on the same team and that you are going to do everything to help that patient get better took a lot of practice."
Dr. Parikh continues to consider his job fulfilling and gratifying, especially getting to see students mature from medical students to practicing physicians. "I love hearing back from students who have finished their residency who tell me they still remember things I said or taught them. It's an amazing feeling."
In his free time, Dr. Parikh and his wife enjoy spending time and traveling with their two daughters, ages 8, and 11.