Among the scholastic elite of the state of Bihar in Northeast India who qualified for state-sponsored medical educations, Drs. Suresh and Kalpana Prasad met at Patna Medical College and married long before hearing of Odessa or deciding to make their careers here.
The internal medicine specialists had first immigrated to Chicago, where Suresh did his internship at Edgewater Medical Center, when they chose Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center for his residency and her internship and residency.
“Chicago was too cold,” said Suresh, 51. “Driving down here 21 years ago, we fell in love with this community. It is ugly, but the people are so friendly. They appreciate what you do for them. The climate is almost the same as India, although there is less rain.”
Kalpana added that when they flew to Dallas and Midland for their first visit, “We saw people smiling in the plane.
“That never happened in Chicago.”
Kalpana, whose maiden name was Kumari, grew up in Patna, a city of two million, while Suresh was from a village 30 miles south of there, and they learned of their med school acceptances from lists of identity codes in the Hindustan Times.
Five hundred seats are awarded each year from among 100,000 students who take the test. Some wealthy families send their children to expensive private medical institutes, but success in the competitive exams ensures an “almost free” education, Suresh said. “It was an ecstatic feeling,” he said.
Noting there was a profound difference between hoping to become a doctor and knowing he would, Prasad said, “There is a lot of pride and responsibility because you will be dealing with life and death situations.
“It’s very humbling. If you want to serve the gods, the best way is to take care of the creations of the gods – whoever is in need. My uncle had congestive heart failure and diabetes, and since I was 7 years old I had driven with him to Patna for him to get treatment.
“My father, who died last year, was a businessman and a homeopathic doctor. He and three other uncles also had diabetes and everybody was saying, ‘We wish you were a doctor so you could take care of them.’”
As the 47-year-old daughter of retired teachers, Kalpana achieved her dad’s goal for one of his kids to be a physician because her granddad’s unrealized ambition had been to be one. “I was 8 or 9,” she said.
“I was good in my school and they said, ‘You’re so good, you should be a doctor.’ I worked hard, I studied hard and I am here. It was joyful after I won. I still remember that moment. There was pride and a lot of satisfaction. Just about every house had somebody trying to compete.”
The Prasads are Hindus whose marriage was arranged by their families.
Supported by Physicians’ Assistant Grace Andrade and Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Kimberly Cedillo at their 403 Pittsburg Ave., clinic, the docs treat adults with high blood pressure, obesity and sleep disorders along with diabetes and other maladies, referring the more serious cases to gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, orthopedists, surgeons and other specialists.
“We don’t send anybody to a doctor we wouldn’t go to ourselves,” said Suresh.
Citing their main goal as “patients’ satisfaction,” the couple said they encourage a healthier lifestyle while determining what medications may be needed. “We are both aggressive on lifestyle modification,” Suresh said.
“We want to empower our patients to be in the driver’s seat and be responsible for their own health. The people who come and see us also say, ‘Thank you, I feel so much better.’ That’s more satisfying than any amount of money.
“The medication works better if they have confidence in you.”
He said Odessa has a well-developed medical complex with numerous Indian doctors and that its hospitals “are equal to any university hospital.”
Asked if they get homesick, Kalpana said no, because they have been in Odessa longer than they were in India; but they alternate going home and having relatives visit here each year.
She said her husband often works 70 hours a week because he has more specialties, manages a sleep lab and does the clinic’s paperwork while she, working 40 hours, also tends to their home and cooks Indian food and “Fusion” dishes from different cultures. Their daughter Smriti is at the University of Texas Southwest School of Medicine in Dallas and their son Vivek is an Odessa High School sophomore.
“I love cooking,” Kalpana said, adding that they are vegetarians. “I look at it as an art.”
The Prasads enjoy traveling and have often visited Hawaii, and they’ve been to Italy and have put Paris on their list of places to see.
Dr. Raymond Martinez said they “are well-trained, hard-working people and all around good general internists who can handle all types of medical problems.
“Kalpana is a general internist while Suresh can take patients with much higher levels of acuity and follow through,” said Martinez, an obstetrician-gynecologist. “We socialize from time to time. They’re connected to the medical community, the Indian and non-Indian.
“These people don’t want for courage, nor do they want for hard work in their care of patients, their ethical approach to medicine or their desire to assimilate into the Odessa community. They’re very pleasant.”
Dr. Sudhir Amaram said the couple “had a lot of choices but decided to make Odessa their home, and we’re fortunate to have them.
“You could tell they were going to be stars when they went through the Texas Tech residency program,” said Amaram, a cardiologist. “It was the way they interacted with patients and took the best possible care of them, even those with complex medical issues that required different problem-solving techniques. Some of the problems were difficult, but they didn’t mind handling difficult medical issues.
They are very friendly, trying to do their best for their patients. They are family-oriented and unselfish. They are not pretentious, they’re honest and open.”