A Conversation with Ami Parekh | See previous interviews

Ami Parekh
Assistant Clinical Professor

Ami Parekh

According to your CV, you pursued a law degree before becoming a physician. Why did law intrigue you?

I actually earned the law degree during med school. It was during the third year of med school that I decided to apply to law school. As I was getting a better sense of the clinical practice of medicine during my clerkships, it became clear to me that our health care system was very broken. I already had a business background from my time as a consultant, and I felt that I understood the basic economics of health care, but I needed to get more of an understanding of how policy and law influenced our health care system. Law school was a way to really round out my learning towards system change. Overall, our world has placed increasing value on depth of knowledge in more and more specific areas and I think we’ve lost an ability to go across different disciplines. As an undergrad I was a political science and biology major. I felt that coming at aspects of biology with a broader view helped, and similarly having a scientific approach when doing policy and humanities work gave a different type of discipline to it. I like to believe that having a business and legal or policy background combined with the knowledge of what it means to practice clinical medicine enhances what we can change and improve within the our system of care.

Has developing systems professionally translated into personal or social activities?

Yes, it is definitely on me to coordinate social events for my immediate family but, in our extended family, it is all my mom’s doing. She is the social network coordinator.

Are you like your mom?

I hope so! She is fantastic! She is an immigrant who went to a non-English speaking school and came to this country in the 1970s when she married my dad. She had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry when she came here and has only expanded her education since. She continues to pursue knowledge and growth—her first job was as a medical technologist in a hospital lab and now she works in health care IT and continues to push herself and grow.

Tell me about your family and where you fit into its hierarchy. How many siblings do you have?

There are just two of us, my younger brother and me. He is way more fun than me—a better dancer and the social guy. We are both extroverts but he takes it to that next level. He is a physical therapist by training and it is the perfect fit for him because he likes to spend all day with people.

What image or idea helps you keep your focus when things aren’t going quite as planned?

Be nice. The thing that systems work teaches you is that it is all about people, actually getting things to change isn’t always about the details of the stuff that you’re doing. If you can maintain relationships and work with people through disagreements, that will get you much further than pushing a specific idea or agenda. It is the relationships that will take you through in the long term.

What could never be stolen from you?

I think there is what can never be stolen and what you hope could never be stolen. I hope that my passion to improve the world stays with me, but there is much going on in the world that could make you very cynical. I hope my outlook would never be taken. I hope that I would remain focused on the positive and that each of us can change things for the better.

When do you find time for yourself? Where is your refuge?

Still trying to figure that piece out in my new post-residency life, and since becoming a mom. Running on a treadmill, even though I am a horrible runner, is very calming. Although I can only run about a mile without running out of breath, it forces me to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

How do you encourage in your child the qualities of leadership?

My child already thinks that she is going to be Wonder Woman! She is a very articulate and outspoken 4-year-old. She is pretty clear what she wants most of the time.

Who most inspires you, past or present?

Both my parents. Any immigrant family is inspirational. Immigrants, to this country, and what they have done to leave their country and come to live in a new country is inspirational. They come to make their lives and their families and children’s lives better and they work really hard to do it. If the question is about historical people who made a difference—like a lot of people would say, I would have to stay Gandhi and Martin Luther King; they brought about massive change and fundamentally altered how people think about their society. They changed how we think about our world and what rights we think people have. Those are the people we all should aspire to be like, but we all have our part.

What is a favorite contradiction of your personality?

I forget things everywhere. I misplace my ID, leave the office with the keys still on the desk, I cannot find things on a regular basis. Usually, they are not lost; I just do not remember that they are in a different bag or a pocket I forget to check. I am incredibly detail-oriented when it comes to data and work but somehow, when it comes to my things, it’s just hard to keep track. My husband would agree, he is neater and more organized and that has come through in my daughter. She will not let you put her shorts in her pants pile. I just have a pile.

What would the wild side of Ami like to try before too much more time passes?

I have already skydived and bungee jumped—I really love that stuff. I’m glad I did it before I had a kid because I think your risk-taking abilities change when you have a child. I would just love to do it more.  I’ve done tandem skydiving but it would be great to become certified as a solo skydiver. Similarly, I am a certified scuba diver, but I haven’t gone in a couple of years. As I kid, we traveled a lot, so I’ve lived in Kenya and India, but it would be nice to travel more and do more high-risk, adrenaline stuff. I love it!

Ami, thank you.

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Ami's professional bio | See previous faculty interviews