Written by Patricia Dean, ARNP, MSN
So over the years I have heard many patients complain that their doctor doesn’t listen. I want to talk today about a doctor who always listened. His name was Sanjiv Bhatia, MD. Unfortunately, he passed away early Thursday morning, May 24.
After graduating from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, in 1980, Dr. Bhatia completed his residency in neurosurgery in 1986 and was an assistant professor there until 1992. He subsequently joined the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, for two years. During this period, he focused his research on the role of MR and PET imaging in the evaluation and surgical treatment of epilepsy. Upon completion of his research, Dr. Bhatia joined the Boston University School of Medicine. He later went on staff at the Boston VA Medical Center as a neurosurgery staff attending physician from 1996 to 2000. Although he was a well-trained and respected Neurosurgeon, he decided he wanted to learn more. I met Sanjiv Bhatia when he decided to do a fellowship in pediatric Neurosurgery. His training was at UM and what was then Miami Children’s Hospital. Fortunately after his fellowship he became an attending Neurosurgeon at what is now Nicklaus Children’s and I got to work closely with him for the next 15 years.
Although he took care of children at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital with all different neurosurgical issues, he had a special interest in epilepsy. He was a brilliant and gifted surgeon, but more than that he was a kind and caring man. He always listened, not only to the parents, but also the children. He never talked down to them and always sat and listened to what they had to say about their epilepsy and what they wanted from their operation. I remember one of his patients, a seven year old girl was in the surgical holding area and said to the surgical nurse getting ready to take her into the OR, “I want to see my Neurosurgeon, get me Dr Bhatia.” He was told this and did not laugh it off as the demands of a silly child, he dropped what he was doing and went to see her.
He truly cared about all his young patients and their families. When the families and kids heard he had died they were as devastated as all of us here at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. They all talked about what a wonderful person he was and the incredible impact he had on their lives. Remember this man dedicated his life to trying to stop epilepsy in children and young adults. He changed lives. One young man, who was operated on by Dr Bhatia when he was a teenager and went on to become a triathlete and graduate from college with a degree in Sports Medicine called me when he heard. He was distraught and told me I didn’t understand, “Dr. Bhatia changed my life, Dr. Bhatia made it possible for me to have a life.”
That is what he wanted for his patients, he wanted them to live their best lives. Hundreds of people turned out for his memorial last weekend. They waited on line in the pouring rain to offer their condolences to his family. Young surgeons that he had trained, staff from the hospitals he worked at and yes his patients and their families. One of his patient’s father who has since moved to Texas flew in for a few hours just to come to the memorial. He texted me, “Now I’m sitting at MIA, with weather delays getting back, but that man was so very good to my daughter and my family. One of the most modest individuals I ever knew. Brilliant and skilled beyond 99.9% of the rest of the world and acted like he was just another guy.”
But he was not just another guy, Epilepsy has lost a true champion.