So many joys | News, Sports, Jobs
You can see it in his eyesâ¦ in his smile.
And you can hear it in his voice when he talks about the joy it has brought him to be a pediatrician in Clinton County and raising his family here for the past 40 years.
Born and raised in India, Dr Praful Bhatt always wanted to be a pediatrician. After studying medicine in India, he and his young wife, Aruna, moved to the United States. Dr. Bhatt completed residency training in New York City on staff at the Manhattan Children’s Treatment Center.
“I have always been interested in private practice”, he said.
His research brought him to Lock Haven in 1981. He opened his solo practice at 72 E. Church St. and he and Aruna settled in a community they grew to love and raised their three children there. .
For 37 years, he cared for thousands of children, from newborns to young adults in this same office which was easily recognized by a large picture hanging on an interior wall that could be seen by passers-by.
The painting is certainly revealing.
Work by local artist Ron McGinniss in 1986, it shows Dr. Bhatt with some of his patients and their families during this time. McGinniss said she used oil paint to make the large collage from photographs of patients hanging in the hallway of the office.
âMy wife (Tina) and I brought our children – Andy and Katie – to Dr. Bhatt. We became friends, and now we are neighbors â, Ron said looking at the painting and perhaps thinking back to when his children were little and he took them to Dr Bhatt’s office for their care.
“My, how time flies” he said.
Dr Bhatt smiled broadly as he looked at the painting and remembered the names of some of the staff and nurses, parents and their children. He pointed to a little girl and said: “I am treating her children now.”
Oh, the memories that painting brings back.
Dr Bhatt, who was the only pediatrician in town for most of his 40s, until three years ago when an opportunity arose to join the team at Geisinger Medical Center and he decided to leave his home on Church Street.
The painting remains a wonderful memory. He doesn’t know where his next home will be, but one thing is certain, it will always be precious.
Dr Bhatt said Geisinger had welcomed him with open arms as he made the transition to a larger system.
âIt was quite an adjustment, but I made the best decision. I had always worked with Geisingerâ¦ referrals and special care. I had known Geisinger for 35 years and had high regard for them, and I have high regard for their pediatric department â, Dr Bhatt said in a recent interview in his office at the new Spring Street Geisinger Clinic in Lock Haven.
âMy patients could accompany me to Geisinger or be transferred to another doctor. Most of them came with me â, He continued. And now that he’s retired, he’s offering his patients a similar opportunityâ¦ to stay with Geisinger or have their records forwarded to another pediatrician.
Dr Bhatt said he has seen significant improvements in the field over the years and has seen all kinds of achievements and milestones in pediatric care.
“Things have changed. Things have improved a lotâ¦ diseases, pediatric care and vaccinations have reduced the number of serious illnesses,” he said, mentioning sepsis and meningitis. âThere has been a significant reduction in these diseases. There have been significant improvements in the care of children over the years.
Speaking of the changes and challenges, Dr Bhatt commented on the COVID pandemic that has recently spread around the world.
âThis is the worst medical pandemic I have ever seen and being on the front lines has not been easy for any of us, including our children. he said.
Although he is retiring as a practicing pediatrician on July 6, Dr Bhatt said his âThe heart is still in pediatrics. I love the opportunities for long term relationships, to watch their accomplishments and to share the joy of the family as their children are successful in life.
“Of course there were sad times, but the joys prevail” He continued. âI have the greatest sense of accomplishment and joy with what I have done. And now it’s time to move on.
“It’s time to give back to my wife and family who have unconsciously contributed to my success” he said, mentioning his three grown children, Saurin, Nirali and Benoy, who all grew up in Lock Haven and are now married, have moved on and have pursued careers in the medical field.
âThey all sacrificed themselves for my practice, but they didn’t know the difference. Children were used to phone calls from patients after hours. And they accepted it as part of our life. Now it’s time for me to give them back â, he said.
He and his wife plan to visit their children more often. And there are also grandchildren, he said with a smile.
Aruna conceded that she wasn’t sure what it would be like when he retired.
“Maybe 24/7? I do not know,” she said with a big smile. âHe is affectionate and kind. A great person â, she continued, her smile softening a bit as she looked at her man fondly.
With so much joy in being a doctor, Dr Bhatt is not going to give up this part of his life completely. He hopes to continue teaching in the physician assistant programs at Lock Haven University and the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is also involved in many organizations and sits on various boards of directors, and will continue his work there.
âOn the lighter side, I love tennis and table tennis, and my wife and I love fitness. We would like to see some of the national parks and plan trips around the country â, he said.
As for moving away from Clinton County, that is not going to happen.
“If I could start all over again, I would still be a pediatrician and I would always be here” Dr Bhatt said with a heartwarming smile that shows why this lovable man is so loved by so many people.
Aruna added, “It’s our house.”
Since it was announced that he will be retiring, he has received many cards and greetings from patients and their families which are posted on a notice board in his office. Some even stopped to take a photo of Dr Bhatt with their children before he left.
And the Geisinger staff members also had nothing but wonderful things to say about Dr Bhatt, as they joined him for a group photo.
Of course, he took the time to write a personal note to all of his staff, telling them how much he enjoyed working with them and expressing his sincere gratitude and appreciation for their support, collaboration, cooperation, warmth and friendship.
In his correspondence he quoted Ed Kennedy – “For those whose worries have been our concerns, the work goes on, the cause endures, hope still lives and dreams will never die.”
Dr Dana Smith, who will take care of many of Dr Bhatt’s patients after his departure, described him as caring, considerate and a pleasure to work with him. “I have big shoes to fill” she said with a smile.
Larcy Bitner, an assistant medical student at Penn College working on her pediatric certification with Dr Bhatt, said she was “Grateful to have been taught by a most experienced pediatrician”.
“He has a special way of himself … caring, very informative and loves to teach”, said LPN Amanda Colocino, as she stood in the pediatric ward nurse’s office with Dr Bhatt and other staff. “Very welcoming and understanding” Candra Buckwalter added.
He accepts all kind words and thoughtful notes with dignity and appreciation, but insists on giving compliments and thanking those who made it all possible – his family, his patients and their families, and a friendly community that embraced him no. only as a doctor. but as a person.
He also wrote a special farewell, which his children titled, âThe greatest retreat ever. “
It seems there are many who are wholeheartedly with his sons and daughter … and the title certainly fits their beloved Dr Bhatt … the man who wears his love for children on his face and in his heart. And they will be sorely missed by them.