St. Mary's County was once a place where no doctor wanted to settle.
In the 1970s, the county hospital used decades-old equipment,
struggled to make payroll and had no full-time specialists -- not even
an obstetrician, although more than 600 babies were born there each
Then came Vinod K. and Ila Shah, Bombay-educated and D.C.-trained
husband-and-wife doctors who were eager to open a practice in the
rural area. They had heard about St. Mary's from Vinod's younger
brother and were enticed by the potential impact that even a small
practice could have there.
"It was just like miracle workers walked in," said Richard Martin, 92,
who was then head of the hospital. "I told them, 'You are the answer
to my prayers.' "
The couple was soon joined by Vinod's younger brother, Umed K. Shah, a
gastroenterologist. Next came two family friends. A few years later,
another brother arrived, cardiologist Anil K. Shah, with his wife,
Beena Shah, a neurologist.
In time, Vinod and Ila Shah recruited more friends and family,
including the rest of Vinod's eight siblings, each of whom is a doctor
or is married to one. They built the largest private specialty
practice in Southern Maryland, Shah Associates, which has treated
about 90,000 of St. Mary's 110,000 residents.
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