Get to Know: Sid Pani, MD


Sid Pani, MD, gives thought to making a connection with his patients and reinforcing the messages that will help them achieve or maintain good health. At Emerson Primary Care at Sudbury, Dr. Pani — who also has additional training in nephrology — also treats patients with kidney problems. When he isn’t caring for his patients in Sudbury, he may be found painting in his home studio in Newton.
You’re from a family of physicians, correct?
My mother is a pediatrician, my eldest brother is an anesthesiologist, and my sister-in-law a hospitalist. My wife, Madhu Misra, is the chief of pediatric endocrinology at Massachusetts General Hospital and comes to Emerson once a month. My father was an engineer, but his expectation was that I would be a doctor. I got into both engineering and medical schools, but he convinced me that medicine was a more fulfilling profession. After working for a few years in India, my wife and I moved to the U.S. We landed at Logan Airport, and Emerson was the first hospital that I saw in this country, on our way to Acton, where my brother lives. I remember thinking, ‘Interesting — maybe someday….’
The challenges facing primary care physicians are well known.
A lot has changed over the past two decades — the transition to a value-based model, MACRA and other new measures, using the EMR and obtaining prior authorizations are just some of these changes. We have limited time with our patients, so one prioritizes what one wants to achieve during a visit. You review past problems, but new ones may need to be addressed. Often, we need to focus on a specific issue in the interest of time. Even with this focus, we may not achieve all we want at that visit and have to hope that constant reinforcement will get the message through.
Being effective requires that you make a connection with the patient, correct?
Yes. To improve efficiency, the trend now is to carry your laptop into the room and complete the visit note during the visit. I don’t like doing that. I prefer talking with my patients without any electronic device in front of me. I think people need the human touch. However, with fewer physicians going into primary care, and the population living longer, the ratio of primary care physicians to patients is decreasing.
Also, with limited availability of psychiatrists, primary care physicians now see and manage patients with anxiety and depressive disorders. Although we triage patients as needed to specialists, we play an important role — sometimes ongoing — in the management of conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, which can increase the burden on primary care physicians. However, I get immense satisfaction from caring for my patients, especially when I make a diagnosis that has eluded others or see an overall improvement in their health status.
Is Emerson Primary Care at Sudbury a good setting for primary care?
It is, because we are in a lovely building with a laboratory, radiology (including bone-density testing), orthopedic surgery and podiatry services. Emerson has supported the practice, and we now have four providers. I appreciate the easy access to Emerson cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists, all just a phone call away. The location works well for our patients, who come from Wayland, Hudson, Marlborough and Framingham. People like Emerson, and therefore they like anything affiliated with Emerson.
You paint and have exhibited your work widely.
After our son left for college, my wife saw some of my forgotten sketches from high school and pushed me to take painting lessons. I took a few lessons at the Museum of Fine Arts, and one thing led to another. It’s a process and, before you know it, you are in juried exhibitions and competitions, and eventually solo shows. I am currently showing my work at the Mass General West Cancer Center, and I just participated in Newton Open Studios. I now have a studio in our home, which is wonderful. I mostly paint to relax.
In addition to painting, what do you enjoy during your time off?
My wife and I like to travel. Our last trip was to India to see our parents. We’ve traveled throughout Europe and have enjoyed trips to Morocco and South America, including Chile and Colombia. We have planned a trip to Kenya and Tanzania this September.