Kinjal Patel, MD
Meet Dr. Kinjal Patel, Calyx Health’s thought leader on delivering innovative care to Medicare patients. Dr. Patel is board-certified in internal medicine and nephrology. Prior to joining Calyx Health, Kinjal served in leadership roles at both CareMore Health and One Medical.
What first drew you to practice medicine?
It’s admittedly cliched but growing up, I adored science, and I wanted to be a bench scientist. I chose medical school, because it seemed like a logical blend of science and helping people. I did not know the state of healthcare in any significant detail, as I was not surrounded by physicians growing up, so I will admit I chose the path without really knowing what I was choosing. What has kept me in medicine is probably more important than what initially drew me in: that health and wellness are a mirror of the overall state of someone’s life, and delivering healthcare is a blessing of an opportunity to help someone better their own life. The self-empowerment we may affect by practicing medicine is tremendous.
What do you value most in your patient relationships?
To me, relationships are what make life meaningful, and the ones with patients are special because healthcare is where humans are curiously trusting of essentially a stranger. I will never forget how I first felt back in medical school when a patient told me about her life and allowed me to examine her physically. I felt an almost unbearable responsibility and privilege. Patients share their vulnerable selves, and they do that because they believe in our good intent. I feel the same bond in my role as a yoga instructor. There’s a sanctity in that sharing and how we are able to respond with support. And those of us who get to work in healthcare are so fortunate to have such experiences. At their best, these relationships make us all kinder humans.
What has been your experience with the healthcare system?
All of my life, I’ve gone to doctor’s visits with my grandparents. Since childhood, I saw and felt relief, confusion, frustration, and gratitude alongside them: experiencing the health system via their circumstances is one of the invaluable lessons of my life. During internal medicine residency at Columbia New York Presbyterian, I began to experience the difficulties in delivering care despite being at a highly resourced center, because so many of our patients were uninsured. Then while in nephrology fellowship, I began to understand the impact of insurance coverage and access, as my training years coincided with ACA implementation across the nation. I saw that insurance coverage is essential but that securing coverage unfolded the next innumerable layers of work pending to improve healthcare. I knew I wanted to reduce disparities, keep people thriving at home, and serve and protect the frail. I was fortunate to lead kidney health services at CareMore Health, which serves the Medicare/Medicaid population, and then I deepened my understanding of primary care at One Medical. My yoga studies continue to further shape how I approach health. I now view the healthcare system as the sum of all potential resources that we may use to be well, and prevent, as well as treat, disease.
Why did you join Calyx Health?
The mission resonates with my heart and mind. We exist to preserve and improve health for those who need it deeply. American healthcare is filled with talented, well-intentioned and thoughtful professionals, but somehow the way we’ve organized it all leads to a prohibitively expensive delivery system that at large becomes dissatisfying for both the patients and the clinicians. We can do better, and Calyx is going to be a big part of that better present and future.