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Q&A VCU-CMH Dr. Nimesh Patel

Get to know Dr. Nimesh Patel, a left ventricular assist device, heart failure and transplant cardiology specialist.

Headshot of Dr. Nimesh Patel Dr. Nimesh Patel

Nimesh Patel, M.D joined the VCU Health System faculty in 2016 and is the only left ventricular assist device, heart failure and transplant cardiology specialist within a 60-mile radius of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, Virginia, where he spends most of his time seeing patients. VCU Health CMH provides health services for the south-central region of Virginia and northern North Carolina. Additionally, Patel is assistant professor of internal medicine/cardiology at VCU and is routinely involved in educating medical students, internal medicine residents and cardiology fellows.


What interested you about the field of cardiology?
Since med school, I was very fascinated with the pathophysiology of heart disease. I felt that cardiology would be the most rewarding field and one where I could make the most impact on the patient’s life.


What kinds of patients do you see in South Hill?
South Hill is a remote, underserved area, and unfortunately people wait until they have a major problem to seek medical care instead of taking advantage of preventive care. Much of the population is more than 65 years old, and these individuals have multiple risk factors for heart disease, like high blood pressure and diabetes. We are the only hospital catering to them. I treat their atrial fibrillation, I do cardioversion transesophageal echocardiography, and I also do heart catheterization. If they need a procedure that’s not available at CMH, I’m the bridge who helps them get that done at VCU. I’m very proud that I’m able to help these people.


Can you tell me about a memorable patient?
A 65-year-old patient had been golfing and came in with abdominal pain. They were treating him for gallbladder disease and planning for surgery. Suddenly, he started developing chest pain. We did an EKG and found out that he had acute myocardial infarction. We had to fly him to VCU for a heart catheterization. He came back after he was discharged and was very appreciative that I diagnosed it early.


Tell me how you came to work for VCU Health.
In 2016, VCU was looking for cardiologists to work in underserved areas. In South Hill, to get proper heart health care, patients had to drive at least 60 miles. I’m a heart failure specialist, and I have multiple certifications, so I really wanted a program where I could use all my skills. I can practice noninvasive cardiology at CMH and also do heart failure and transplant medicine at VCU. Plus, being in an academic health care system, I get to keep teaching fellows at VCU. I really wanted to work in a small town where I could practice everything. I could take care of the cardiology basics like echocardiography, and managing atrial fibrillation and hypertension, but also get the opportunity to manage patients with advanced heart failure and transplant.


“I really wanted to work in a small town where I could practice everything.”


What’s the most challenging thing about serving patients in South Hill?
The challenging part is lack of awareness of their disease and lack of social support. Many of the population are poor and cannot afford blood thinners for atrial fibrillation. So, we have a program here where we provide free medications to them. But the treatment of heart disease is not just medication. You have to have a holistic approach, where you focus on the mental and social aspect. Also, a lot of people have depression, which is one of the reasons for worsening heart failure or heart disease. We make sure they have help for that, too.


How about the rewards?
The reward is the appreciation from the patients, especially when you see a patient whom you advised to do this, take these medications, exercise, etc., and they’re doing well. They come back, and they’re so happy. That’s the most rewarding part — when you feel you have really impacted their life. It’s so gratifying. I’ll give you an example: One of my patients was obese and had atrial fibrillation. When he came to see me, his heart was very weak. I told him nobody’s going to do any procedure on you because the weight is the barrier. I told him, the only way we can help you out is for you take your health in your hands and start exercising. So, I helped him out with cardiac rehab, and that’s when he started learning. In the next few months, he lost 40 pounds. Then I did a transesophageal echocardiogram and shocked his atrial fibrillation into normal rhythm. Since then, he’s been doing very well.


What does “a good day at the office” look like for you?
What makes a good day at CMH is the patients. The way they treat you. And the work environment. We have a great team. That’s what satisfies me.


Do you have a personal philosophy?
Spread kindness and help everyone, and that will bring happiness to you.


What do you do for fun?
I enjoy gardening and watching Bollywood movies, and I love playing cricket.

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