By Chris Motola
Globetrotting doctor settles in the Finger Lakes area, compares health systems here and abroad and explains why he uses only his first name
Q: You’re a relatively new arrival Upstate New York, right?
A: Yes, we just relocated from Manatee County in Florida.
Q: Good timing.
A: Yeah, I know. Florida was a good place to stay, but my wife and I had a desire to live in Upstate New York for sometime. She’s originally from New York, from Long Island, but her family has since moved to Niagara Falls. So we’ll be closer to the in-laws. And we enjoy all four seasons.
Q: What do you like about the area now that you’re here?
A: We used to come here every winter between November and December. So I’d been quite acquainted with this place. We’ve been here in the fall and seen all those beautiful colors. There are a lot of hiking trails here, which we love. And Thompson Hospital and my clinic is just across the lake. I have my lunch by the lake and de-stress. The weather here is so nice. In Florida I feel like I can’t breathe. It’s too hot and humid. You wake up and it’s already hot.
Q: You’ve recently completed your internist training, but you’ve been a doctor for longer.
A: So I did my general M.D. training in India with a subspecialty in toxicology and pharmacology. I was mainly doing primary care in different countries. Then I was teaching for a long period of time in medical schools. I joined a residency for internal medicine from 2019 to 2022, but before that I was teaching in Florida. Before that I was in the Caribbean for a good six or seven years as the dean of two medical schools. Before that I was in Mauritius, a small French island near Madagascar. I was teaching and practicing medicine there. Before that I was in India.
Q: So you’ve seen a lot of different medical systems. What’s your broad take on the various medical systems? What did you like or not like about them?
A: It’s been awhile as I left India in 2008. But in India, the patient volume is too much. It’s a huge, expanding population, so it puts a lot of stress on the medical system. The only difference I noticed compared to Western medicine, especially America, is that anyone who is board-certified takes patients in a guideline-based approach. It’s a very focused approach here, and the documentation is top notch. I remember back in the day having to go through pages of handwritten notes that you couldn’t always read; it was chaos. Things are much more regulated. I love it. Medicine doesn’t really change, but the ways of practicing it do. I learned a lot in the last three years. I’d been teaching it before that, but teaching and practicing aren’t exactly the same thing.
Q: What kinds of patients will you be seeing now?
A: I usually see patients who are 18 and above. I provide general family medicine care and preventive medicine, covering everything from common colds to diabetes and heart failure. Preventive medicine is my favorite part: are they up-to-date on their vaccinations, colonoscopies, blood work. And I do office-based procedures as well.
Q: What are some of the most important factors to consider with preventive care?
A: I personally believe, with the experience I have now, that patient education is the number one thing. The patient needs to be aware of what needs to be done and what’s impact of that on their future health. If they understand it, they’re more likely to follow your recommendations. I’ve seen both sides of outcomes. Patients who aren’t following advice starting to present with cancer or diabetes after many years. Patients who follow the advice and are well-informed are staying healthy. So I totally believe the impact we can make in preventive medicine is brought about by educating the community and educating the patient.
Q: Do you see opportunities to apply your previous subspecialty training now?
A: Toxicology and pharmacology? I worked in India at the National Poison Center. I’d been curious about toxicology for a long time, and India it’s a three-year M.D. program. But I’ve used this in the hospital system here. In the hospital you see a lot of poisoning: organophosphate poisoning, alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses, unknown substance overdoses. I personally believe no education goes to waste.
Q: What is organophosphate poisoning?
A: It’s a poison farmers spray on the crops so that they’re not destroyed by insects and that kind of thing. When they spray it, they can breathe it in, or it can be absorbed through the skin and cause poisoning.
Q: So I’ve got to ask about your name. You go by a single name, Saurabh, or Dr. Saurabh. Why is that?
A: It’s a common practice in some parts of India that the parents never use their last names for themselves. Society in India is divided into a caste system. With a last name, you can know which caste I belong to, which county I’m from, what religious practice I follow. You can pinpoint me down. So my dad never believed in that concept, so he told me and my brother, “You’ll just go by your first names.” Our family does have a last name, but none of my documentation, my passport, none of these had my last name. In the rest of the world I was able to fly by without that. But when I came to America, the USCIS said we’ll give you your only name as a last name, and we’ll give you another name: No Name Given (Nng). So people here will call me Dr. No, and I will respond to it. So my driver’s license, my bank account, everything has No Name Given. If somebody adopts me, I can choose a last name.
Name: Saurabh, M.D. Position: Internist with Canandaigua Medical Group Hometown: Niagara Falls (adopted). Current residence: Farmington Education: Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences, Dehradun, India; medical degree in clinical pharmacology and toxicology at Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College in Meerut, India. Affiliations: FF Thompson Hospital Organizations: American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Heart Association Family: Wife, son Hobbies: Hiking, golf