Arvind K. Goyal
Family Medicine, Northwest Community Hospital
After finishing medical school in India, where he was born and raised, Arvind Goyal considered a number of specialties before finally embarking for the United States when he was 22. “This was the only place in the world at the time where the specialty of family medicine had started,” says Goyal, who is now 57. “I was the first resident in family medicine at Cook County Hospital. The day I heard that they had started [a program] there was the day I applied.” In addition to working at Northwest Community Hospital, where he is the chairman of family medical practices, Goyal also works at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village and teaches at Chicago Medical School.
Q. Why were you so intent on practicing family medicine?
A. Family medicine is the best branch of medicine because it is a specialty of breadth. It gives you the ability to interact with a patient and provide comprehensive, continuous, and compassionate care on a long-term basis, with significant collaboration with people in different specialties and with other health care workers. A team approach is always best.
Q. What is the commonest problem you encounter?
A. The commonest problems I treat are related to wellness and prevention. People want to be healthier than they know they are. They want to know what they can do to be healthier 10 or 15 or 25 years from now.
Q. Why do you place such an emphasis on preventive care?
A. Do you ever have your car serviced without waiting for it to stall on you? Of course, and it’s the same thing with your health. When a patient comes in with a heart attack, stroke, or cancer, it’s already too late. You can salvage them, but you cannot turn back the clock. So it is extremely important to do the kinds of things that will prevent these things from happening.
Q. Such as?
A. Stop smoking. That is the best and cheapest way to influence your future health. Reduce stress where you can. Any type of exercise is good, but you need to be sure that it won’t put you at risk. Break into an exercise routine gradually, even under a physician’s supervision. Research says that even if you exercise four times a day for only a few minutes at a time, it is very useful. People need to watch their weight and adopt good [eating] habits. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my french fries, but if I eat enough french fries, I am going to look like a french fry. And people need to be screened for diabetes and have their blood pressure and cholesterol tested. Your weight shows, but those things don’t.
Q. What kind of long-term plans should people be making about their health care?
A. It is very important that you have a decision made about your desires regarding your own health in the future. Don’t wait until you are not able to make that choice. Even if you are young, have a living will or an advance directive: who is going to make decisions for you when you can’t make them yourself. In addition, you need to establish a long-term relationship with a doctor before you get sick, and decide which hospital you would go to. Those choices need to be made way ahead of time.