Living Long while Living Well by Dr. Poonam Merai

Sep 20, 2021

As a little girl, I would often visit my father’s family practice office on the southwest side of Chicago. I watched patients leave the exam room and could sense the trust and comfort they had in my father, some having been with him for over 20 years. It seemed like magic how he partnered with his patients and healed them. Many would stop and talk to me on their way out and say how lucky I was to have my dad. That was no secret. I knew how lucky I was! Watching him was a source of inspiration for me.

I carried this vision with me as I arrived as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I had many questions: Why do our bodies break down? Why do we die? What’s enduring about who we are? What’s our purpose? Studying philosophy alongside biology gave me a greater understanding about both the physical and the metaphysical realms, though it often created more questions than answers. As I continued on in medical school at UIC and residency at the University of Chicago (where Dr. Will also trained, by the way), I began gravitating towards the concepts of aging and longevity, fueling my career as an Internist and Geriatrician, most recently at Rush University Medical Center.

My experiences so far as a physician have driven me to rethink how we deliver healthcare to patients. We spend too much time playing catch-up, chasing one health problem after another. It’s time we focus on prevention and wellness. That’s hard to find in the traditional healthcare system where too often patients get lost, appointments are short, and needs go unmet. Instead, patients must have someone by their side to answer questions, to offer guidance, and to empower them to actively participate in building health. To me, Harper Health is the answer to how to rethink medicine. That’s why I decided to join the team here.

I have also been thinking about my children. My husband and I have two young daughters. Might they, someday, come by my office in Streeterville after school to do their homework and watch me as I care for patients? Will my patients appreciate the care as much as my father’s did? Will I be proud of the care I’m providing? I have a lot more confidence in these answers now that I’m on the Harper Health team.

I look forward to building partnerships with my patients here. I know that by working together to form a vision of what health and wellness looks like for each individual patient, we can formulate a plan that incorporates lifestyle decisions and genetics, as well as controllable health and environmental factors. At Harper Health I see that patients have access to cutting edge medical technology, and a physician who is committed to bringing the most updated and relevant information to the patient’s care. With better access to your physician, you, the patient, can be comforted knowing that someone is there for you always.

Dr. Will brought me to Harper Health to push their model even further. While I will see adults of all ages, I will also search deeper for answers to some of those burning questions I've had since college. Why do our bodies break down? Why do we die? And new ones, too: How can we live long while living well?

As we answer them, we will build innovative programs by leveraging my training and experience in the care of older adults, my studies in traditional Eastern medicine, and my interest in human longevity. I am grateful that I will have the support, time, and resources to enhance an already wonderful program.

In many ways, Harper Heath has brought out the best in medicine as we put the patient-physician relationship first, similar to how my father practiced many years ago. I look forward and am truly excited to work with the team at Harper Health and my patients to build a better, healthier future.

If you or a friend or family member is interested in joining my practice downtown in Streeterville or just want to see if it's a good fit, reach out to Anne at 630-446-6130. She'll set up a time for us to chat.

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