Ruchir P. Patel, MD, FACP
Medical Director/Founder at The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
Henry Ford Hospital
Rush University Medical Center
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Sometimes, a physician experiences a medical condition from a patient’s perspective and gains insight into how that condition could be treated more effectively.
This was the situation that sleep specialist Ruchir Patel, MD, FACP found himself in while undergoing a residency in internal medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
“I was having a lot of insomnia issues and I was prescribed sleep medication at the time, and that ended up prompting my interest,” Dr. Patel said.
Fortunately, he was able to successfully resolve his insomnia and has been off sleep medication for over six years. His three year battle with the disorder inspired him to open his own clinic to help others who suffer from chronic sleep issues.
“So many people are on sleep medications that would like to be able to come off them, but they have a hard time doing so because psychologically, they’re so dependent. A big thing that has helped me in terms of managing patients is the fact that I’ve been there and suffered through that mental battle and experienced it, I can walk people through it slowly and encourage them that it will get better.”
From Surgery to Internal Medicine
As the oldest child born to two generations of physicians, Dr. Patel was exposed to medicine at an early age, often visiting the hospital where his father was rounding while growing up in Tennessee.
“From a very young age I used to go the hospital with my dad on the weekends, primarily to sell chocolates—growing up as kids we’d sell chocolates for fundraising—so I’d always go to the hospital and sell out an entire box in one Saturday morning. It was just through my regular exposure and seeing him and what he did, that’s where my interest in medicine sparked—ever since I was a little kid, that’s what I was going to do,” he said.
Although he knew he was destined to be a doctor, the decision to pursue internal medicine came much later.
“I had actually started medical school wanting to do surgery, but then the more that I started going to my clinical rotations, I started realizing that internal medicine had a lot more to offer and there’s more pieces to the puzzle. With internal medicine, there’s more of a thought process that goes into a patient and evaluating the individual to figure out what’s going on, and you have to use multiple ‘hats’ rather than just one, so it was that and the mental challenge that really got me into internal medicine.”
When the time came to apply for a residency, Dr. Patel changed his specialty to internal medicine. His father was pleased with the decision, and the young medical student benefitted from the paternal guidance he offered. While studying in Dublin, Ireland, Dr. Patel would often make long-distance calls to ask his father for advice, and he once demonstrated how to read an EKG while visiting from overseas.
“When I became a resident, my first month was scary as all heck. Even on call, I would call my dad—‘Hey Dad, what should I do in this situation?’ Then slowly as I got more confidence, I would less rely upon him,” he said.
The guidance didn’t end after medical school—inspired by his father’s private practice, Dr. Patel decided to forego continuing to work at an employed position and chose instead to open his own practice.
“He helped me dramatically in terms of designing the business model, various different things to look into, how to make sure the private practice model works and how to be successful. He guided me through all of that—I’m a successful physician today because of him.”
The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
After completing a yearlong sleep medicine fellowship at Rush University in Chicago and working in an employed position for only 10 months, Dr. Patel opened the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona in Scottsdale, Arizona. The clinic provides adults and children with evaluation, diagnoses, treatment and study of over 80 documented sleep disorders.
“I’m constantly doing consultations on new patients to evaluate for various different sleep disorders and then also follow-up patients for management of chronic sleep issues. We have a full sleep lab as well, we’re open six nights a week and we study about 100 patients per month, evaluating for various different sleep disorders,” he said.
“I feel that educating the patient is extremely important because if a person can’t understand why there’s consideration for a particular medical diagnosis, why a test may help, why treating the diagnosis is important for long-term care…the patient’s going to be less likely to want to accept the diagnosis or accept moving forward.”
And, he said, it’s important for physicians to stay educated, too. The knowledge Dr. Patel receives from his ACP membership keeps him informed of the latest developments in internal medicine, which directly benefits his patients through better care.
“It helps to keep us all on the forefront of medicine in helping to advance scientific knowledge…to better diagnose and treat patients. Without being part of an organization like the American College of Physicians, you know—staying on top by reading the ACP journal, going to ACP meetings—in my opinion, it would be very difficult to stay current in the new advancements that are occurring.”
In the field of sleep medicine itself, he said, recent advances in treatment and research have brought sleep to the forefront of medicine.
“Now, there’s an association with poor sleep and dementia, an association with poor sleep and weight gain, an association with poor sleep and heart attack, stroke, increased risk for diabetes—all sorts of things that we didn’t realize there was a connection between. Physicians in general are taking us more seriously than they were even four or five years ago as a result of there being more data, and the literature’s showing that sleep and improving quality of sleep is extremely important for long-term health.”
A Strong Acumen for Business
With internal medicine’s recent emphasis on sleep and new research detailing better ways to treat insomnia, The Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona should have no shortage of patients in the coming years. The challenge suits Dr. Patel, who has always had a passion for entrepreneurship.
“I’m very business oriented, so that’s a very large passion of mine. Whether it is health care driven or non-health care driven, I feel I have a strong acumen for business itself, which is something that a lot of physicians don’t have and that can make it challenging to have a successful practice in a private setting,” he said.
He’s looking forward to the future in his home life as well, with a recent marriage and plans to start a family in the next year or two. But in spite of the milestones he’s been experiencing lately, Dr. Patel remains professionally focused on the goals that drew him to medicine in the first place: providing patients with the best care possible and improving the quality of life for people with chronic conditions.
“I’ll be open three years in nine days, and we’ve been fortunate enough to see about 4000 people already in less than three years. People are sleeping better, feeling better, they’re healthier, so I can’t ask for anything more than that.”