Reaching New Heights This Specialist Is at the Top of His Profession

Dr. Anand Kanjolia was clicking his way through a collection of several dozen of his favorite photos from a lengthy hiking expedition he and some friends took through the Himalayas this past spring.

He paused to provide some insightful commentary on several images of Mount Kailash, a great mass of black rock soaring to nearly 22,000 feet. Considered a holy mountain, Kailash is off limits to climbers in deference to Buddist and Hindu beliefs, said Kanjolia, noting that, while people can’t scale it, they can hike around it — and he did, snapping several breathtaking shots of the peak and nearby Lake Manasarowar in the process.

Perhaps 30 clicks of his mouse later, Kanjolia was at base camp at Mount Everest, where this hiking trip wrapped up. He stopped at one picture that offered a crystal-clear view of the summit and the rugged terrain that had to be passed to get there.

As he ran his finger along the route, Kanjolia said that, while base camp, some 17,000 feet above sea level, is certainly no picnic, ascending to the summit — another 12,000 or so feet into the sky — is exponentially more difficult.

When asked if he thought he might ever be up to that challenge, Kanjolia smiled and shook his head a few times as if to suggest that this would likely be well beyond his capabilities. “And, besides, I’d have to take three months off from work,” he told the Healthcare News. “I had never taken three weeks off before this trip.”

Indeed, Kanjolia’s work as an internal-medicine specialist with Cardiology & Internal Medicine Associates in Springfield keeps him quite busy and makes those long breaks difficult. He has steadily built his practice since arriving in Springfield more than 12 years ago, and while he places a high priority on exercise and his various athletic endeavors, it’s clear that his first passion is his work.

“I really love what I do and find it extremely rewarding,” he said, noting that his work involves treating patients with conditions ranging from heart disorders to hypertension; from respiratory ailments to newly diagnosed cancer. “Internal medicine involves everything, and you’re the point of first contact; I like to help people, and in this job, I get to do that every day, and each day is different. When you choose a specialty, you have to know a lot about one thing. Here, I know a lot about a lot of things.”

Still, he has more climbs, or hikes, on his to-do list, especially Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and knows he’ll have to somehow find a way to take of those extended vacations to make them possible.

For this, the latest installment in its ongoing Today’s Physician series, HCN talked at length with Kanjolia, whose career has in many ways mirrored his hiking and other athletic pursuits. In short, he keeps setting the bar higher — and he continues to clear it.

Summit Meetings

As he started talking about those sporting endeavors, Kanjolia said collectively, they have become a broad attempt to practice what he preaches to most all his patients — namely, the importance of exercise, sound heart health, and overall well-being.

And he’s been doing such preaching — although it’s more like friendly professional advice — since he got into medicine more than 30 years ago, and especially since coming to this country from his native India roughly a decade later.

Kanjolia said there is no family history when it comes to the medical profession, and no ’a-ha moments’ that propelled him into this field. He said his father always stressed the importance of education, and his children all did well in school while growing up and became professionals in various fields.

Kanjolia told HCN that he chose medicine more than it chose him, and he honed his skills at the University of Rajasthan School of Medicine and Sardar Patel Medical College in Bikaner, India. He was a resident intern at Sadar Petel and its affiliated hospitals, and later did his residency in general surgery and orthopedics at Kaslok Hospital in Bombay.

He emigrated to this country in 1990, and started with a clinical externship at Rockville General Hospital in Vernon, Conn. He later did a residency in internal medicine at the University of Massachusetts at Berkshire Medical Center. After several stops at hospitals in Central Mass., including those in Southbridge and Webster, where he worked as an emergency-room physician, Kanjolia came to Mercy Hospital, where he worked in the ER and its Internal Medicine Service starting in 1997. He started in private practice, with Cardiology & Internal Medicine Associates, in 1998.

Kanjolia said his practice entails a daily mix of office appointments and his own visits to both Mercy Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center to see his patients while they’re receiving care in those facilities. He told HCN that, while hospitalists have eliminated the need for such trips, and many internal-medicine specialists spend much less time in the hospital these days, he still devotes roughly the first two hours of each day to such visits.

“A lot of people have stopped going to the hospital, but I really enjoy hospital work,” he explained. “I keep the continuity of care; most of my patients are happy to see my face because they know their doctor is there. No one knows a patient better than his or her doctor, and with these visits, the patient is often more comfortable, and I’m more comfortable.”

Like many physicians, Kanjolia laments that the practice of medicine has become more complicated and, in his words, “labor-intensive,” meaning bureaucracy and paperwork. Still, he thoroughly enjoys all that’s in his job description.

“I’m very content with my work right now — I still wake up every morning and look forward to seeing my patients in the hospital and coming to the office,” he said. “And that’s important. My principle is very simple: the day you start waking up in the morning and dread going to work, that’s the day you need to find something else to do with your life.”

It was during his six-year stint in Mercy’s ER that a colleague (and pioneer in the emergence of the hospitalist niche), Dr. Winthrop Whitcomb, an accomplished long-distance runner, encouraged him to try that activity.

After some early teething trouble — he signed up for the New York Marathon, but got a little ahead of himself in his training regimen, hurt himself, and had to withdraw from that event — Kanjolia eventually learned to pace his advancements, and eventually worked his way up to half-marathons and then full marathons.

“I would do it for fun and charity,” he explained, adding that Violence Against Women became one of the main beneficiaries of his running exploits.

Kanjolia still runs in a few races a year, including the St. Patrick’s Day event in Holyoke, but he also moved on to other athletic activities, especially hiking.

He described his excursion to the Himalayas with a series of short, descriptive adjectives — ’cold,’ ’tough,’ ’challenging,’ and ’really cold,’ among others, that certainly got the point across.

But the hardships were clearly matched and exceeded by the rewards, he said, listing everything from camaraderie to pride in achievement, to his photos, which include some stunning shots of one day’s last rays of sunlight hitting the very top of the summit, turning it bright gold against the otherwise gray mountainside.

The Top of His Profession

While reaching that summit is probably beyond the scope of reality for Kanjolia — even if he could ever take that much time off — it’s clear that he intends to keep reaching higher, literally and figuratively, in his life and career.

And he’s going to keep practicing what he’s preaching, an attitude that has taken him from the gym to the marathon course to the roof of the world — to who knows where else.