Spring 2023 White Coat Speaker - Jalpa Patel, MD '15
New medical students look forward to their first medical school rite of passage with excitement—the White Coat Ceremony. Wearing their first white coat is the symbol of beginning their careers as future physicians.
American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) alum Jalpa Patel, MD '15, was always sure about her personal and professional mission, long before wearing her white coat. During her childhood in Southern California, Dr. Patel was intrigued by solving puzzles. The first-generation daughter of Indian-born parents, she recalls the family's visit to the hospital during her grandfather's heart attack. "I saw doctors in the hospital solving healthcare puzzles and saving lives. That's what inspired me to enter the field of medicine."
Right out of high school, Dr. Patel began preparing for a healthcare career. After completing an undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, California, she was on track to go to pharmacy school—but realized she wanted to be a physician. "A family member who had gone to AUC recommended it. Before I knew it, I was at AUC taking my first classes."
Learning to be a physician means choosing the right specialty
Once there, Dr. Patel began her AUC experience in earnest. Named Student of the Semester in May 2013, she was a teaching assistant, peer tutor, and served as a resident advisor – all in addition to her studies. "Time management is a skill you'll need to have as a physician—and you'll start learning to manage time and priorities in medical school."
She completed her clinical training at Ascension Providence Hospital in the greater Detroit area. She went on to match at Ascension Providence Hospital for her internal medicine residency. Her interest in gastroenterology was sparked early in clinical training. "I had a gastroenterology rotation in my fourth year of medical school and I fell in love with it as it was the perfect combination of procedures and medicine." With hard work and the support of excellent mentors, she went on to match again at Ascension Providence Hospital to complete her training in gastroenterology.
Now at Banner Del E Webb and Banner Boswell Medical Centers in Sun City, Arizona, Dr. Patel specializes in the digestive system and diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Her work in gastroenterology includes caring for conditions such as hepatitis, peptic ulcer disease, colitis, nutritional problems, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. She provides care for patients suffering from digestive issues and performs endoscopic procedures including Colonoscopy. "GI and particularly the field of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is ever-evolving—there's lots of new research. Each patient may need different treatments to have success, including helping them adjust to life with the disease." Similar to her early calling to medicine, Dr. Patel is now helping her patients put together the puzzles of their own conditions to see life changing results.
Support through the medical journey
Looking back on her medical education, she recalls the support system at AUC that helped her reach her career goal. "The faculty support energized and motivated me. Plus, the friendships I made continued after graduation. I made some of my closest friends in medical school. We all went through the experience together and still rely on each other for support."
Her advice for AUC students is to focus on the journey. "There will be highs and lows, but it's important to be resilient and not give up on your dream of becoming a physician. Any struggles will only make you stronger and propel you forward in your career. That attitude is why patients rely on you."
Dr. Patel knows she chose the right specialty for her. "Gastroenterology is competitive to enter, but it was fascinating to me, so I worked hard. My biggest driving force to get into the field was seeing the look on patients' faces when they felt better. Their gratitude makes all the hard work worthwhile. It's why I wear the white coat."
Interested in learning more about how AUC can support your dreams of making a difference in healthcare? Request more information here.