Member of the Month: Ajay Gupta, M.D.
TAFP officer values personal relationships with patients
After being raised by first generation immigrant parents in Chicago and Houston, Ajay Gupta, M.D., graduated with his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and completed a residency program in Corpus Christi. He quickly joined Jefferson Street Family Practice in Austin and is still there today. Gupta is currently serving as TAFP’s treasurer.
Gupta and his wife, Nayana, have three sons who stay busy with extracurricular activities – soccer, basketball, and playing the drums and piano. “We enjoy spending time as a family and with our friends here in Austin,” Gupta says. “Austin is a great place to live.”
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? Were you inspired by anyone?
I really enjoy the diversity that family medicine has to offer. The range of illness and disease states are vast in what we do in family medicine. I feel that the scope of knowledge that is required to be a good family medicine doctor is the most challenging of all medical specialties. When I was a medical student and did my rotations I found that I really enjoyed many of the fields of clinical medicine. Since I did not want to limit myself to one field, family medicine became the obvious choice.
As a third year student, I did a rotation with Dr. David Abbot in San Antonio. It was then that I really appreciated the impact such a caring physician could have on his patients. Dr. Abbot’s patients clearly had tremendous respect for him and he had the same for his patients. Many of his patients grew up with him. They had similar life experiences in finding their partner, raising a family, and just simply getting old together. That continuity of care was something I did not appreciate until my rotation with him. It was such a change from the exposure I had at that point while doing my in hospital rotations. There it seemed that the family medicine residents did all the “scut work” for the medical team and seemed to be at the bottom of the group since they were always the odd resident in that subspecialty field. It was eye opening to see how family medicine was viewed in the real world. I have had many of my specialist friends refer to me as the “real doctor” amongst us.
What have been your best experiences as an active TAFP member?
I have had many great experiences as a TAFP member. It allowed me an opportunity to meet like-minded family docs in both the professional and personal sense. I have served on various committees, task forces, and the Board of Directors. Currently I am the Treasurer of the Academy.
Our Academy does a great job protecting the family physicians of Texas as well as their patients. TAFP also does an incredible job of promoting our valuable specialty and maintaining the reputation of family medicine. Our staff is widely considered one of the best, if not the best, across the state academies nationally. At every meeting I attend I have learned something that has been helpful to me and my patients, as well as my practice. TAFP provides numerous benefits to its members ranging from unbiased CME to legislative policies. There are many different levels in which a member can participate at the meetings. By actively participating one can help shape policy and the direction of the Academy. I have always felt free to express my perspective as a private practice, small-group physician. I do feel the Academy needs more of these private practice doctors to attend the business meetings. In the end TAFP is us – the family docs of Texas.
What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
Team effort. Sometimes there is more than one way to approach a patient’s medical issues. I try to present all these choices and try to rank them in order. Ultimately I want the patient to take charge and be the manager of their health plan after being armed with this guidance. I always try to value my patients’ time and feel honored to serve as a physician to each and every one of them.
If you could make one change to the world of health care as it is today, what would that change be?
Our health care system at this point values more quantity care and not so much quality care. I do see a shift in this over the next few years and hopefully, if done right, the system will reward the best doctors and not necessarily the doctor who saw the most patients. As doctors we need to take an active role in helping set the standards on quality care. Family medicine has always provided the greatest value in the health care system. We do things in the most cost-efficient way, yet with the highest quality of all specialties. This is something that we need to continue to emphasize. Family medicine should be the face of the health care system and serve as its foundation. I feel our Academy is making progress in helping shape policy. Past leaders of our Academy like Roland Goertz, M.D., M.B.A., have been able to directly impact policy on a national level. We need to continue to secure a seat at the table for family docs when constructing policy. There are many opportunities for members to contribute and affect policy.
What is the most important quality a family physician should have?
Compassion. Many times our patients arrive to us in their most vulnerable state. They seek our help and our expertise. In my practice our patients choose to see us. They have many choices and there are a lot of great doctors out there. We need to value their time and appreciate allowing us to be their doctor.
How do you spend your free time?
Free time – what’s that? Our kids keep us extremely busy. Lately our weekends consist of all day soccer and basketball tournaments. We feel like a glorified shuttle service at times, but we enjoy giving the children opportunities to find an activity that can serve as a lifelong hobby. Occasionally, Nayana and I get time to ourselves and enjoy a low-key concert or a movie. We try to take advantage of the extended holidays and travel. I love to travel and try to combine that with hiking and rafting, now that the boys are older. In the summer, we try to escape the hot weather and travel up north. The last few summers we took a group family vacation with a few close families. We have traveled to Aruba, Cancun, Colorado, and Alaska.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I’d be a professional basketball player. However, when I became vertically challenged medicine became my destiny. If I could have been compensated somehow to travel and see the world I wouldn’t have minded that either! In all seriousness, I love my job and my patients. I enjoy seeing my patients and getting to know them personally and helping when I can.
TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.