INTERVIEW WITH SMITA PATEL, DO
What guided your decision to go into medicine and specifically, your chosen field?
During medical school, I was in my neurology rotation and was fascinated with how powerful our brains are. For instance, if you have a stroke in a certain part of your brain, you may not be able to do math but you can otherwise walk and talk like normal. I remember thinking to myself that while this is unfortunate, it is also incredibly powerful that your mind can function that way. I actually witnessed Gerstamann’s Syndrome, which includes the inability to write (dysgraphia or agraphia), the loss of the ability to do mathematics (acalculia), and the inability to identify one’s own or another’s fingers (finger agnosia). During neurology residency, I found that better sleep could actually improve your chances for better brain health and generally improved many health conditions. After hearing many patients ask about natural methods to sleep better, I chose to enhance my wellness and prevention training by taking further studies at the Dr. Andrew Weil Integrative Medicine Center at the University of Arizona.
“Given my educational background – which includes osteopathic medicine, neurology, sleep medicine, and integrative medicine – I really try to provide a holistic approach to care.”
Have you ever been a patient, and if so, what did it teach you?
It’s true what people say: it is difficult being a patient when you’re a doctor. It taught me that I need to be open to advice and that I need to have trust in my provider. More importantly, it taught me how to be a better doctor by recognizing what I wanted as a patient. I wanted things explained to me in a way I could understand. I wanted to know all of my options and the pros/cons to make a well-informed decision. Finally, I wanted to know how I can make lifestyle changes to support my best decision. As a doctor, I strive to deliver the best care to my patients and treat them the way I would want to be treated.
What are the most important qualities for a doctor to have?
Collaboration and trust between a patient and practitioner are vital to supporting a patient’s health journey. When co-developing the most effective and sustainable treatment plan for illness, it’s important to understand and consider components like a patient’s cultural background, primary language, traditional lifestyle practices and diet, and social and economic barriers.
What can a patient expect when they have you as a doctor?
I listen, teach, and advocate for my patients’ health.
What makes you different from other doctors in your field?
Given my educational background – which includes osteopathic medicine, neurology, sleep medicine, and integrative medicine – I really try to provide a holistic approach to care. I intertwine a personalized approach to allow the body to heal with evidence-based therapies to include natural medicines, herbs, exercise, sleep, food as medicine, and pharmacological interventions.
Dr. Patel giving a community talk at the Chicago Botanic Garden
What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I enjoy reading and traveling. I am a life-long learner, so I’m always interested in new things to keep my brain active.
You recently joined the Doctorpedia team as a Founding Medical Partner. What about Doctorpedia resonates with your personal and professional mission?
I’ve set out to educate communities and expand integrative medicine knowledge to underserved populations and/or those with limited access to care. Just before Doctorpedia came into my life, I founded iNeuro Institute to deliver credible information to online healthcare seekers.
What problem do physicians face that Doctorpedia can help solve?
Doctorpedia can help provide patients with a one-stop-shop to learn about their medical conditions. My parents often search the internet for answers to their questions and then end up calling me to fact check. I hope that Doctorpedia can help those who don’t have easy access to physician family members.
If you could spend a day with any person in the world (dead or alive) – who would you choose?
Helen Keller. She was driven by her deep compassion for others and devoted her life to helping them overcome significant obstacles to living healthy and productive lives. I’d love to be able to speak with her about how she was able to achieve so much despite not being able to see and hear. Also, she grew up during a time when higher education for women was a sharply controversial topic; in 1904, she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe.
What would you do for a living if you weren’t a doctor?
I really can’t imagine my life not being an Integrative Neurologist and Sleep doctor. It’s not only my career, it’s also my hobby. I did graduate college as a biomedical engineer, so that would still be my second choice in terms of a career path. I guess I’m just a math-and-science kind of gal.
Smita Patel, DO
Integrative Neurologist and Sleep Medicine Physician
Dr. Patel is triple board certified in neurology, sleep medicine, and integrative medicine. In addition to serving as the Director of Center for Brain Health at Northshore University Health System and as the Founder of iNeuro Institute, Dr. Patel is a Doctorpedia Founding Medical Partner and the Chief Medical Officer of Doctorpedia's upcoming Sleep and Wellbeing Channel.