You can see it in his eyes… in his smile.
And you can hear it in his voice as he talks about the joy it has brought him for the past 40 years being a pediatrician in Clinton County and raising his family here.
dr. Born and raised in India, Praful Bhatt always wanted to be a pediatrician. After receiving his medical training in India, he and his young wife, Aruna, moved to the United States. dr. Bhatt attended residency training in New York City with the staff at the Manhattan Children’s Treatment Center.
“I was always interested in private practice,” he says.
His search took him to Lock Haven in 1981. He opened his solo practice at 72 E. Church St. and he and Aruna settled in a community they have come to love and raised their three children here.
For 37 years, he treated thousands of children, from newborns to young adults, in the same office, easily identified by a large painting hanging on an interior wall, visible to passers-by.
The painting is certainly telling.
The work of local artist Ron McGinniss in 1986, it shows Dr. Bhatt with some of his patients and their families during that time. McGinniss said he used oil paints to create the large collage of photos of patients hanging along the hallway in the office.
“My wife (Tina) and I took our children – Andy and Katie – to Dr. bhatt. We became friends and now we’re neighbors,” Ron said, looking at the painting, perhaps thinking back to the days when his kids were little and he took them to Dr. Bhatt contributed for their health care.
“Gosh, how time flies,” he said.
dr. Bhatt smiled broadly as he looked at the painting and remembered the names of some of the staff and nurses, parents and their children. He pointed to a little girl and said, “I’m treating her children now.”
Oh, the memories the painting evokes.
dr. Bhatt, who was the only pediatrician in town for most of his 40 years, until three years ago when the opportunity arose to join the team at Geisinger Medical Center and decided to make his home away from home. leave Church Street.
The painting remains a wonderful memory. He’s not sure where his next home will be, but one thing’s for sure: it will always be cherished.
dr. Bhatt said Geisinger welcomed him with open arms as he made the switch to a larger system.
“It was quite an adjustment, but I made the best decision. I had always worked with Geisinger… referrals and special care. I’ve known Geisinger for 35 years and had a lot of respect for them, and I have a lot of respect for their pediatric department,” said Dr. Bhatt during a recent interview in his office at the new Geisinger Clinic on Spring Street in Lock Haven.
“My patients could come with me to Geisinger or transfer to another doctor. Most of them went with me,” he continued. And now that he’s retiring, he’s offered his patients a similar opportunity…to stay with Geisinger or transfer their records to another pediatrician.
dr. Bhatt said he has seen significant improvements in the field over the years and has seen all spectrums of achievements and milestones in pediatric care.
“Things have changed. Things have gotten a lot better… ailments, pediatric care and vaccinations have reduced the number of serious illnesses,” he said, referring to sepsis and meningitis. “There has been a significant reduction in those illnesses. Care for children has improved significantly over the years.”
Talking about changes and challenges, Dr. Bhatt comments on the COVID pandemic that has recently spread around the world.
“It’s the worst medical pandemic I’ve ever seen and being on the front lines was not easy for any of us, including our children,” he said.
Although he will retire as a practicing pediatrician on July 6, said Dr. Bhatt said his “heart is still in pediatrics. I love the opportunities for long-term relationships and watching their achievements and sharing in the joy of the family as their children succeed in life.”
“Sure, there have been some sad moments, but the joys outweigh them,” he continued. “I have the greatest sense of accomplishment and joy with what I have done. And now it is time to move on.”
“It’s time to give back to my wife and family who have unknowingly contributed to my success,” he said, naming his three grown children, Saurin, Nirali and Benoy, all of whom grew up in Lock Haven and are now married. moved and have a career in the medical field.
“They all sacrificed themselves for my practice, but they didn’t know any different. The children were used to the after-hours phone calls from patients. And they accepted it as part of our lives. Now it’s time for me to give back to them,” he said.
He and his wife plan to visit their children more often. And there are grandchildren, too, he said with a smile.
Aruna admitted that she is not sure what it will be like when he retires.
“Maybe 24-7 now? I don’t know,’ she said with a big smile. ‘He is loving and kind. A wonderful person,” she continued, her smile softening a little as she looked at her husband with affection.
With such joy in being a doctor, Dr. Bhatt didn’t give up that part of his life completely. He hopes to continue teaching in the Physician Assistant programs at Lock Haven University and Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is also involved in many organizations and serves on several boards, where he will continue his work.
“On the lighter side, I enjoy tennis and table tennis, and my wife and I enjoy physical fitness. We would like to see some of the national parks and plan some trips around the country,” he said.
As for getting out of Clinton County, that’s not going to happen.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d still be a pediatrician and I’d still be here,” said Dr. Bhatt with a heartwarming smile that shows the reason why this kind man is loved by so many.
Aruna added, “This is our home.”
Since he was announced to retire, he has received many cards and get well wishes from patients and their families on a poster board in his office. Some have even stopped by to get a photo of Dr. Bhatt with their children before he leaves.
And the Geisinger staff had nothing but great things to say about Dr. Bhatt, as they joined him for a group photo.
Of course, he took the time to write a personal note to all his employees, telling them how pleasant he was to work with them and expressing his sincere thanks and appreciation to all for their support, cooperation, cooperation, warmth and friendship.
In his correspondence, he quoted Ed Kennedy: “For those whose worries are our concerns, the work continues, the cause continues, the hope lives and the dreams never die.”
dr. Dana Smith, who likes much of Dr. Bhatt’s patients will take over when he’s gone, calling him caring and considerate and a pleasure to work with. “I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” she said with a smile.
Larcy Bitner, a physician assistant student at Penn College who, along with Dr. Working on her pediatrics certification, Bhatt said she was “grateful to be taught by a very experienced pediatrician.”
“There’s something special about him…caring, very informative and loves to teach,” said LPN Amanda Colocino, as she spoke with Dr. Bhatt and other staff at the nurse’s desk in the pediatric ward. “Very welcoming and compassionate,” added Candra Buckwalter.
He accepts all kind words and thoughtful notes with dignity and appreciation, but insists on returning compliments and gratitude to those who made it all possible—his family, patients and their families, and a friendly community that embraced him not only as a physician but as a person.
He also wrote a special farewell, which his children titled “The Greatest of All Time Retires.”
As it turns out, there are many who wholeheartedly agree with his sons and daughter… and the title certainly fits their beloved Dr. Bhatt… the man who carries his love for children on his face and in his heart. And they will miss him greatly.
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