Paresh Desai, MD, FACS, MS, MBA
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Paresh Desai left a busy life in New York as a kidney and liver transplant surgeon to move to an area where he and his wife could raise their two young daughters in a less hectic environment. More than 30 years later, Desai is one of the foremost physicians, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians in Citrus County. The medical practice he founded, Advanced Urology Institute, has more than 75 specialists in offices around the state. His business achievements have seen the development of assisted living facilities, hotels, and banks. His civic involvement ranges from the Citrus County Economic Development Council (EDC) to the Save the Manatee Club.
“This community has given me a lot. It is my moral duty to give something back to it,” he said.
“Physicians have come to this community because of Dr. Desai,” said Gastroenterologist Dr. Trupti Shindi. “He is a philanthropist and an example to younger physicians. I look up to him.”
Born and raised in India, Desai was inspired by an uncle, who also was a urologist, to attend medical school and become a transplant surgeon. He completed residency programs in general surgery and urology at Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn, NY, and West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. After a fellowship in kidney and liver transplant at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, he worked as an assistant professor and transplant specialist at Stony Brook Medical Center in Stony Brook, NY. While the job was fulfilling, the lifestyle was not.
“I was spending much time on the road, going from hospital to hospital,” he said. “My two daughters were eight and four. I wanted to come to an area where I could get away from the hectic life and the winter.”
It was 1985, and Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill had just opened and was reaching out to teaching hospitals to recruit urologists and other specialists. Desai and his family decided to make a big change. He became the first urologist at Oak Hill Hospital.
“At that time, there were more people in eight blocks of New York City than there were in all of Spring Hill,” he said. “I thought, ‘this is not enough.’”
He drove north on Highway 19, discovered Citrus County, and decided to open an office in Homosassa to serve patients in both counties. After a time, the practice became so busy that he limited it to only Citrus County.
While his uncle was a physician, Desai’s grandfather was a successful businessman who ran hotels and companies throughout the world. Desai looked to that experience as he began his own business initiatives.
First, Desai worked with Inverness-based urologists Dr. Steven Alcorn and Dr. Thomas Stringer to merge their practices. Now called Advanced Urology Institute, the practice has more than 75 urologists in 34 offices from the Panhandle to South Florida.
“We knew that if urologists are together, there is better patient care, better negotiating power with insurance companies, and better continuity of care for patients who move from one town to another,” he said. “As a group, we can do a lot better in all aspects of urology.”
Next, he worked with now-retired surgeon Dr. William Dixon to found the Florida Wellcare Alliance, a group of more than 120 physicians who work together to improve physician practice and patient care in the county.
Desai then founded the Memory Enhancement Center of American, a non-profit organization that helps to improve care of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease in Citrus County. He developed several assisted living and memory care facilities, hotels, and banks.
He and other physicians advocated for changes to Citrus Memorial Hospital’s operating structure, so that the facility would have more financial resources to advance technology and attract physicians.
“Now we can compete with every hospital,” he said.
Along with the county EDC, Desai has served on the boards of the Tourism Development Committee of Citrus County, the Community Redevelopment Board of Crystal River. He founded the Manatee Eco-Tourism Association (META), to help boat captains improve tourism and protect manatees.
“I’m grateful to this community to allow me to serve them. I would not be where I am right now if it were not for the community,” he said.
Desai’s latest projects reflect his passion for veterans, and for healthcare patients in the county.
When a new patient, a World War II veteran, came to his office, Desai saw that the patient was not being well cared for. He started looking into local care of senior veterans and is now in the process of developing Veteran’s Village, an assisted living facility for veterans that will be located near the Veteran’s Medical Center in Lecanto.
“Every fourth person in this county is a veteran,” he said. “I wanted to do something for veterans that has never been done in this county.”
He also is using his hospitality industry experience to build an extended-stay hotel on the CMH campus. Within walking distance of the hospital, the hotel will serve patient families, visiting nurses and technicians, medical residents, and visitor to the city.
“Work is my hobby,” he said.
Desai’s two daughters have mirrored their father’s interests and abilities: one is a Gynecologist in Sarasota who does robotic surgery; the other works for Marriott Headquarters in Miami.
With his family in the state and his businesses thriving, Desai knows that the decision he made decades ago to trade New York for Florida was the correct one.
“This is home,” he said. “I want to stay here and retire here and continue helping the community whatever way I can.”