The Gwinnett Citizen features Dr. Meena and Dr. JJ: Giving back through education
The Gwinnett Citizen Vol. 23 No. 12
By Sheila Adcock
As children of humble beginnings, Dr. Meena and JJ. Shah probably never imagined the level of success they have achieved. Born into lower middle class families in India, Dr. JJ. Shah and his wife, Dr. Meena Shah, immigrated to Gwinnett in 1978 with a hope ofimproving their lives. Together, they have creat- ed a business empire and unique healthcare model based on their medical and business vision. Gwinnett Clinics are to be found at over 20 locations in Gwinnett and Walton counties and in North Metropolitan Atlanta.
The healthcare vision of Dr. JJ was an integrated model of efficiency and accessibility with health centers open 7 days a week in many of the Gwinnett Clinics. In his words, he says, "As we looked around, we saw patients having to use emergency rooms after hours and on weekends. Making appointments with a primary care physician meant a 2-3 day wait. In a short while after our arrival to Gwinnett, Dr. Meena had a busy practice and we felt that better access to primary care in this community was needed."
Shah provides an example: "If tomorrow morning, a tennis player sprains a knee, there is a Gwinnett Clinic nearby for immediate evaluation, since walk-ins are welcome. No appointment is necessary. If the injury is serious, the patient is immediately referred to a specialist By 11am, the patient can see an orthopedist for x-rays; by 12:30 pm an MRI will have been completed. We will know the level of the prob- lem and can schedule surgery or develop a non-invasive plan of care. Our patients support the Clinic and this model." The Shahs employ seven specialty physicians, as well as a host of primary care providers. Also, they have affiliations with over ten medical specialties who support their model and who provide care to the Gwinnett Clinic patients.
The Shahs' success in medicine has 'resulted in their ability to financially help support other programs and endeavors in the community. For example, when Greater Atlanta Christian School, where their three children were educated, planned a new, state-of-the-art science lab, theymadeafinancialcontributiontohelp make this a reality. Annually, they give scholarships to graduating valedictorians from each Gwinnett County public high school.
Kelly K Herndon, Executive Director of Development/Academic Support for the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Fund said, "Drs. J J . and Meena seek to serve the community in all that they do. The Gwinnett Clinic Award recognizing every valedictorian in the dis- trict is an outstanding show of support for Gwinnett"
When asked "Why support education rather than medical research, the environ- ment or other worthy projects?" Dr. Meena explained, 'We feel the best strategy for healing society's issues of poverty, crime, homelessness and broken families is education." In the Indian state where Drs. Meena and JJ. were born and educated, the government mandates education for each child regardless of the ability to pay. Girls' education is totally free, while boys have a token registration fee, possibly equivalent to $20. In fact, in his medical school class of 120 graduates, Dr. J J. said, "Only 30 of those young people had financial means to pay. Though a medical education costs only around $200-300, I was the recipient of a scholarship." This explains the Shahs' passion for supporting education and helping young men and women to also have the opportunity to aspire to their dreams.
At the Gwinnett Clinics, Dr. JJ. is the financial and business manager, while Dr. Meena is the operations and education manager for the practice. Regarding what continues to drive this couple to embrace the hard work and effort needed to manage such a large medical practice and business such as Gwinnett Clinic, Dr. Meena says, "Our primary goal as doctors is to provide quality care to all patients, to the very best of our ability. To continue the mission we began is our aim, with patients being cared for by physicians who are concerned about their patients. And, we hope to grow and encourage education in this community for children and young people."
The Shahs have three adult children who are following in their footsteps with medical careers. Shveta Raju, 30, is an internal medicine physician in a fellowship at Duke University. She is married to Dinesh Raju, a neurologist They have a 15-month old son, who is the "apple of grandma's and grandpa's eye." Daughter, Asha Shah, 29, is completing an internal medicine residency at Emory Hospital. She is planning to join Dr. Meena at Gwinnett Clinic. Their son, Deep Shah, 25, is a Rhodes Scholar and a third year medical student at Harvard.
While not yet ready to pass the baton along to their children, Dr. J J. said, "We are extremely grateful to Gwinnett citizens who have accepted us over the 30 years that we have lived here. It has been a pleasure to live, work and grow a family and children here. We hope one or more of our children will also work in and serve Gwinnett" He adds, "I keep reminding my children, if patients don't receive you, nothing else matters. Patients come before everything else!"
To learn more about the Gwinnett Clinic locations and the Shahs, visit their website at www.gwinnettclinic.com