The guest speaker at our April Business Roundtable came to the U.S. in 1967 from a small village in India, and his family has since transformed healthcare in Southern Maryland. Dr. Vinod Shah co-founded Shah Associates along with his wife, Dr. Ila Shah, a pediatrician, and his brother, Dr. U.K. Shah, a gastroenterologist, 45 years ago in St. Mary’s County. Since then, as MedStar Shah Medical Group, they have also started a medical center in Calvert County and just announced a new center planned for Charles County in partnership with local institutions MedStar Health and MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center.
This project is a major investment in Charles County, but Dr. Shah began with, “I’m not really here to talk about the project. I want to educate you a little about what healthcare is all about. And, then I can tell about what we are doing and why we are doing it in this community.”
Years ago, Dr. (Vinod) Shah, trained in cardiology at Georgetown Hospital and planned to practice in the Washington DC area, so when his wife suggested moving to a rural area in St. Mary’s County with no doctors, he thought it was a crazy idea. But now, he says, “It was one of the best decisions I could make, to move to a community that has been so warm and so inviting and fulfilling.”
When Shah came to the U.S. in 1967, there were no MRIs. No CAT scans. No bypass surgery and no chemotherapy for cancer. He described healthcare as primitive compared to today’s standards. The total healthcare cost then was somewhere around $70 billion, 5.6% of the GDP, and $579 per capita. Today, the cost is nearly $11,000 per capita, nearly 20% of the GDP, and about $4 trillion dollars.
“We are the best nation in the world for providing healthcare,” he said, “but it’s far too expensive. And, we don’t have the access to the care we need.” MedStar Shah Medical Group is modeled after the concept of a distributed care delivery network, taking healthcare services from big cities like Washington DC to smaller communities like Charles County.
With this model, a group of doctors works as a team in one center that takes care of people from birth to an advanced age for all disciplines: medical, surgical, oncology, outpatient surgery, etc. All this is done in a coordinated fashion from primary care to local hospitals to tertiary care (care provided by specialists in a large hospital). This concept was first developed in St. Mary’s County, which became a model for MedStar Shah Medical Group, was duplicated in Calvert County, and will soon be available here in Charles County.
According to Shah, the new center in Charles County will be a 51,000 square foot, three-story facility with the following services:
Floor 1: Walk-in clinic, advanced cancer center, pharmacy, and diagnostic services (i.e. CAT scans and MRIs)
Floor 2: Medical specialties (cardiologists, pulmonologists, cancer specialists, and neurologists)
Floor 3: Surgical specialties
With the use of technology and a connection to larger hospitals, patients needing surgery will be able to have pre-op tests done locally instead of driving to downtown Washington D.C. or Baltimore. All images taken at the center will be interpreted by top-notch radiologists at MedStar Georgetown. Charles County residents will have access to care available at the best medical centers. And, “It will be in one place, a center of excellence,” said Shah.
EDD Director Darréll Brown mentioned that the EDD has been working with MedStar Shah Medical Group for the past year or more. Projects like these take time. “We know many of our residents commute outside the county for medical care,” said Brown. “We believe Dr. Shah’s facility will help stem that flow. We also know we have a workforce with a significant number in the medical field. This facility will provide job opportunities for our residents as well.”
Dr. Shah said, “You have to understand, a small village in India has transformed Southern Maryland by one family’s commitment to care for 250,000 people in the Tri-County area. I’m very proud of what we’ve done together. I think you’ll be very pleased.”