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He's Harvard bound for impressive degree

Pratik Patel, 23, has taken some impressive education steps since graduating from Lecanto High School in 1998.

Right out of high school he attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine in a program that included his undergraduate requirements. He has been there for four years and has finished his second year of the medical course work. After this summer, though, he will transfer.

Patel has been accepted to Harvard Medical School and Harvard Law School. At the end of this program he will have earned both M.D. and J.D. degrees.

The switch to the double degree began in his first year of college, when he was inspired by a lecture given by a physician with a law degree. The topic was about rising costs of medical malpractice insurance. This was already a personal issue with Patel because his father is a doctor.

"There isn't any amount of money that can soothe the pain attributed to losing a loved one," Patel said, "yet more doctors are getting sued today than ever before. It's wrong. People make mistakes. It worries me." The soaring cost of insurance could be disastrous, he said.

Now he hopes he can help. When he graduates with dual degrees, he will have the option of practicing law or doing his residency and practicing medicine.

While he's young, he said, he thinks he would like to work at a law firm, in perhaps New York, where he would be proud to defend physicians in malpractice cases. Later, when he is ready to settle down, he might choose to do his residency and practice medicine. He said he would consider returning to Citrus County.

Patel will receive the Berkman Award, a trust reserved for Harvard students, to finance his years at the university. The award is a full-tuition, renewable scholarship.

There are a limited number of schools that offer the MD/JD program, and Patel was accepted to five of them. He chose among Georgetown, Yale, Columbia, New York University and Harvard. He visited Columbia but was most impressed with Harvard.

"Just looking at it, this big, marble building, you're in awe."

Patel will head to the Boston/Cambridge area and begin school in September. He is home in Citrus County for the summer, working on his pilot's license.

He is the son of Shirish and Ranjoo Patel.