OREF funds dedicated to research, education in U.S., India
With eight dollars in his pocket, Mahendra R. Patel, MD, left Vadodara Gujarat, India in 1959 to do an internship at Niagra Falls Memorial Hospital in New York.
Forty years later, Dr. Patel is a semi-retired orthopaedist in Elyria, Ohio whose appreciation for what he has is demonstrated in his contributions to the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF).
Dr. Patel has been an active donor to the OREF since 1985. Recently, his biggest commitment is a $10 million endowment to OREF which will be used to fund research and education programs both in the United States and in India.
He recalls those early days when he had to leave his wife in India to study in the U.S. "Financially, I was not sure whether I'd be successful enough to support my wife, so I didn't take her with me," Dr. Patel says.
In 1960, he survived on $50 a month he received in residency at the Ohio-based Lakewood Hospital. In a few years, his income grew to $450 a month in residency at Elyria Memorial Hospital in Elyria, Ohio.
In spite of his meager earnings, Dr. Patel pinched pennies to bring his wife to the states and finally they returned to India in 1968. He opened a mini-hospital with 10 beds, one OR room and hired three nurses. "Initially, it felt pretty good to go back," recalls Dr. Patel.
"Financially, I was doing well. But frustration soon set in. People didn't know how important it was to get the OR ready for surgery. Many times, we didn't have a light. We operated with a flashlight. X-ray films and cast materials were imported and limited per patient. We didn't have a telephone."
Unsure he would be able to maintain quality patient care, he returned to Ohio in 1970 to complete a fellowship at Elyria Memorial Hospital and eventually go into private practice at what is now called the Center for Orthopaedic, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Although Dr. Patel's income status had changed dramatically, he continued to maintain a humble lifestyle. "We live modestly-nothing in comparison to what many physicians have today. We have a modest house and I mow the lawn. I don't have a fancy car," says the semi-retired physician.
In 1994, he sold his practice to the local hospital and donated the building to a community college to set up a scholarship in his name in the amount of $850,000.
But Dr. Patel never forgot his spiritual goal in life: "You did something [orthopaedic] for somebody and brought them back on their feet-to life. It's important to give something back."
And so he did. In 1997, Dr. Patel and his wife attended the Academy's retirement planning course. As a result of that course, they decided to have a financial plan developed by Joe Casselli, a speaker at the course and an estate planning consultant to OREF. The estate plan allows Dr. Patel and his wife to 'give something back' to research and education in the U.S. and India
Dennis K. Collis, MD, chairman of the OREF Board, said, "this commitment from Dr. and Mrs. Patel is unprecedented in the specialty of orthopaedics and a great example of how OREF can assist donors in meeting their need to support research and education throughout the specialty and the world."
"I didn't know anything when I came here," Dr. Patel says, humbly. "What I am now is just because of my teachers at the Academy and all different courses. When I started my practice, I was doing mostly general orthopaedics. At that time, joint replacement was just coming up. And my specialty grew into joint replacement. That's how I got interested in research. What I am now financially is because of what I learned. I thought I owed something back to the Academy and to help the future of research."