Resident Case Study: Midhat Patel, MD

TOA is hosting a series of Zooms in 2021 that will help residents identify future practice opportunities.

Midhat Patel, MD, a third-year orthopaedic resident at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, is working on moving back to Texas following his residency/fellowship. Part of the Dallas native’s strategy is to network at TOA’s annual conferences. In fact, he won the top resident presentation at TOA’s 2019 and 2020 annual conferences.

TOA recently sat down with Dr. Patel to look at his strategy for returning to Texas in the future.

TOA: You are now in your third year of residency. At what point of your residency did you decide that you need to start exploring your future career options?

Midhat Patel: I started on day one because I knew I’d probably be relying on more remote networking to land back in the Dallas area where I’d like to be after matching in Arizona for residency. I meet with my chairman annually to talk to him about folks he may know out here, talk to anyone I know in medicine in Texas and elsewhere about possible opportunities, and, of course, I started attending TOA as soon as possible.

TOA: You made attending TOA’s annual conference (and actually winning first place each year) one of your strategies. Do you think that strategy will be helpful for your future?

Midhat Patel: I’m grateful for the opportunity to present and happy to have won the research award. It’s a great opportunity for a number of reasons, and I’ve been able to re-connect with people from my medical school (UTMB) and meet new people.

In my first year at TOA’s conference in Houston, I met with Dr. Eugene Stautberg again, as well as Dr. Vinod Panchbhavi. I also met TOA’s leadership and had the chance to do a video interview. Last year in San Antonio, I met some of the TSAOG docs, Dr. Clayton Nuelle and Dr. Rob Hartzler, as well as Dr. Adam Bruggeman and Dr. Bill Weiss, whom I knew from UTMB. While I haven’t had concrete job discussions yet, I’ve been able to meet people and join the TOA resident group so I’m up to date with opportunities like TOA’s job board and the webinars for residents.

TOA: What have you learned during your journey to explore future opportunities that may have surprised you?

Midhat Patel: I think the most surprising thing is how fast things change. From the time I started residency to now, just in the city of Phoenix, I’ve seen small private groups acquired by hospitals, bigger groups re-negotiate or face pressure, and hospitals expanding their own groups or footprints by hiring directly. It’s not just that there’s competition, but it is also realizing how fast something can shift or change dramatically, and how it’s different in every locale.

I thought it was really interesting that Dr. Eugene Stautberg said on TOA’s recent resident webinar (February 5, 2021) that the pendulum tends to swing one way then the other. The other thing I’ve learned, although I already expected it, is that word of mouth is very important. I’ve heard repeated several times that “the jobs worth having aren’t on the job boards.” I think that does a disservice to a lot of good jobs, but it’s worth at least considering.

TOA: Private practice vs. employed model: Do you have a preference for one over the other?

Midhat Patel: I honestly think that even these two are becoming a hybrid blend – a number of recent docs I know are employed by private groups with or without opportunities for “advancement” or ownership.

I love my work, but my priority has always been to make sure I can take care of my family, and that means being around. I think there are always compromises. I want to go into private practice and be involved in ownership of ancillaries and ASCs, as well as help explore and develop other opportunities. But I recognize that I may give some of those things up and choose an employed position where I can hang out with my kids and wife.

TOA: Do you have a clear idea of where you would like to practice in Texas and in one setting once you wrap up your residency (and possible fellowship)? Or do you think that you’ll still learn a lot of surprising things over the next two years?

Midhat Patel: I’m 98 percent sure at this point that I’d like to be in or within a couple of hours of the DFW area. All of the priorities I have outside of work put me there. I think there are potentially jobs that could turn my head, but it would have to be a great job for me to compromise on the family (my parents live in the Dallas area).

The other thing I think is really intriguing is the chance to build a practice in a rural area, as long as it’s not too far from Dallas. I think the expansion of DFW is also so rapid that I could very well end up in a place that’s growing and won’t be rural for long. When I was in high school, McKinney and Prosper were “middle of nowhere” towns, but that’s obviously not the case anymore.