Member of the Month: Ashok Tripathy, M.D.
Physician enjoys creating lasting relationships with patients
For 23 years now, Ashok Tripathy, M.D., has been a board certified family physician, doing what he loves and caring for his patients. When asked what career would have been his second choice, he says he cannot see himself doing anything else – caring for his patients and creating relationships with them are his true passions.
His father, a well-respected physician, inspired Tripathy to follow a similar path into the specialty. He trained at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and is currently a clinical assistant professor in the department of family medicine there. He has served as president to the TAFP Harris County chapter and to the Indian Doctors’ Association of Houston. Tripathy also volunteers at local temples’ charity health fairs and participates in community-based research.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I chose family medicine since I felt that I would be in the most advantaged position to do the initial assessment and evaluation of the patients’ medical problems. My knowledge in basic and clinical sciences would be best applied in this specialty of medicine, in an integrative approach. I can also understand and manage the patient’s health much better and in partnership with my patient, help prevent several chronic disease states. Within the scope of family medicine, I can also do office-based procedures, thereby avoiding delay in patients seeking specialty care for simple medical problems. This also amounts to greater patient satisfaction.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
It will be unfair to say that there has been only one memorable experience; however, the greatest satisfaction comes when a patient understands and follows what their medical provider advises them to do, thereby preventing chronic disease states and their inevitable complications. I have a similar patient scenario who presented to me with poorly controlled blood sugar, elevated blood pressure, lipids, and liver enzymes. He did not want me to start him on any pharmaceutical agents and was very clear about it. He however affirmed that he was very motivated and was scared of the ramifications of the diseases that he had (diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemias, NASH, alcoholism, and obesity); so he would do whatever it took to improve his medical condition and requested me 3-4 months’ time before repeating his lab tests. It was a true partnership and understanding between the patient and me. With lifestyle changes (low glycemic and Mediterranean diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, alcohol in moderation), a positive attitude, frequent follow ups and reinforcement, nutraceutical support (since he did not want pharmaceutical intervention) to help improve insulin signaling, endothelial function support, and liver detoxification, he was able to lose weight—85 pounds over nine months—and normalize his blood glucose from 9.8 to 4.8 percent.
What advice would you offer to medical students discerning their specialty?
I would advise medical students that family medicine is a specialty where they can help a variety of patients of various age groups with a wide array of medical issues. They would not get bored seeing only one specific specialty-related medical problem, which usually relates to only one anatomic area of the body. Most of the medical problems can be managed by a family physician. This also creates a special bond between the patient and the family physician over time. A family physician can apply his or her knowledge of basic and clinical sciences in taking care of the patient, in a holistic manner. This helps improve patient compliance and satisfaction.
What has your experience as a TAFP member been like?
My experience has been beneficial and great, in terms of sharing views with my colleagues, while representing my local chapter as an alternate director and director to TAFP. I see TAFP as an organization which truly cares for its members and the patients of the state of Texas.
What is the most important quality a family physician should have?
A family physician is in a unique position, where the patient can understand and feel the compassion, understanding, and caring nature in taking care of or giving advice to their health and well-being. In my opinion, the above attributes help build trust, confidence, and respect toward the family physician.
What is something the “real world” has taught you about being a family physician that medical school didn’t teach you?
Managing a practice financially and dealing with ever-changing rules and regulations is challenging. The business of medicine has evolved over time and is in a constant flux. One needs to make the effort to learn and stay current with the changing times in the business of medicine.
If you could time travel, where/to when would you go?
If I could time travel, I would like to visit with my teachers and classmates who studied with me in elementary, intermediate, and high school and reminisce on the good times we spent growing up.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I would not trade my profession for a different career, as it gives me great satisfaction when I can prevent a chronic illness or treat a malady for which the patient presents to me. In my opinion, our health is the most precious of all tenets of life gifted to us.
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
I love reading, gardening, exercise, travelling and spending time with family, in my spare time.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.