Pravesh Deotale, M.D. is a decorated physician, psychiatrist, medical director, and professor. He has advanced medical degrees, professional experience around the world, and even a recent MBA — a testament to his well-rounded and successful career in behavioral health.
In a discussion with Dr. Deotale, we were able to ask about his life and career, as well as gain some perspective on the frontiers of the modern behavioral health field.
How did you find out that behavioral health was your calling?
I was born and brought up in India, and spend most of my childhood and young adult life there. I did my schooling there, I did medical school there, and then I decided to pursue my career in psychiatry.
When I was in medical school, there was exposure to patients with special needs and behavioral issues. As a young doctor, I was really intrigued by the behavior in general- and that curiosity led me to explore what behavioral medicine is (as we used to call it).
When I was first introduced, I worked in a tribal area. I saw many patients that were not getting proper care — they had been neglected in society and were falling behind. We as a society hadn’t been able to give them any resources to uplift their lives. That made me think of psychiatry as a specialty.
In India, after I finished medical school, I did post-graduation in a prestigious medical college for a few years and received three years of training in psychiatry. I decided I wanted to specialize in child psychiatry, so I decided to pursue my career in the United States.
Is there a need for psychiatry everywhere? How underserved is the U.S.?
You know, surprisingly, yes. One other thing that happened after I finished medical school was working in six different countries — all developed, developing, or underdeveloped. Surprisingly, across all three categories, psychiatry is one of the most neglected sub-specialties in medicine. Most of the [behavioral health] resources are concentrated in the cities, leaving the rural parts of any nation completely underserved. That is true all over the world.
Something that is challenging for mental health in any nation is the stigma associated with it. This seems to be a significant barrier that prevents patients from accessing the mental healthcare that they need.
How is the Behavioral Health field working to break the stigma and get care to those who need it?
I think that we, as a community of mental health providers, have embraced the utilization of technology in our practice. Telepsychiatry, one of IPC’s focuses, is a game-changer. Ten years ago, psychiatry was a specialty that was considered “locked” to the hospital setting.
With the advent of technology in the field, it has actually reached out to the rural communities. Every patient can access the providers at home, and they don’t even have to interact with the hospital setting to get the same quality of care.
I think that adopting new technology and changing the old mindset has been instrumental in solving these problems.
Is there any significant disadvantage to the telepsychiatry medium?
Well, there is a trade-off. Telepsychiatry as opposed to seeing patients face to face does take some getting used to. However, in the long run, the medical and quality of life outcomes are equal in both scenarios.
Tell us about your new position!
So, I decided to join Great Circle as a Medical Director about six months ago, and one of the areas of interest I have is patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as patients with severe mental health issues. I have always been interested in these sub-specialties, and I was excited to have the opportunity to become a Medical Director.
In this position, you are a policymaker- so I am able to make decisions in the role that affect a greater number of people and the community as a whole. When I decided to take the position, my goal was to come up with policies that will not only help Great Circle but also the communities they are serving. So far it has been extremely pleasant, and an excellent opportunity.
Why did you decide to get an MBA?
Well, I am sure that you have seen the challenges that the healthcare industry is facing. I think that if we really want to make a change in the healthcare industry, the providers have to step into leadership positions. One of the ways to understand more about the healthcare industry is to gain more knowledge of the business side — because a lot of times in medical school you don’t get exposed to the business side. I wanted to get more knowledge of the business side — and to make myself more aware, so that’s why I sought an MBA from Saint Louis University.