July 17, 2018

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Finding His Calling: Dr. Atul Mishra’s Journey to Pediatric Care in Marshall

Most kids have posters of their favorite athlete or singer but Marshall Pediatrician, Dr. Atul Mishra, grew up with a picture of India’s Surgeon General on his wall. Growing up in Allahabad, India, he received the picture as a gift from the president of his local medical school when he was thirteen years old.  “I decided I wanted to become a doctor when I was thirteen,” Dr. Mishra explained. “So, I rode my bike to the local medical school and insisted on meeting the president.”

Despite his enthusiasm, his mission to meet the president didn’t go exactly as he had planned. “When I got to his office, his assistant told me the president didn’t have time to meet with me,” Dr. Mishra remembered. Fortunately for Mishra, the president had just finished a meeting and ran into thirteen-year-old Atul in the lobby of his office. “I was just a tyke at the time and the president knelt down and asked if I wanted to be a doctor,” Mishra recalls. “He gave me the picture and told me to hang it where I would see it every day.”

Dr. Mishra believes his motivation and drive to become a doctor came from his father. “I was one of three boys in my family and my father always said he wanted one of us to become a doctor, one an engineer and one an attorney,” Dr. Mishra joked. “Unfortunately, and fortunately for me, the attorney and engineer were taken by my brothers so becoming a doctor was my only option left.”

Although his father never directly told him to become a doctor, Dr. Mishra believes it was ingrained in him early on as a child. “My father was a very smart man,” he said. “He never pushed me to become a doctor but it always felt like that’s what I was meant to do.”

Passion for Pediatrics

When it came time for Dr. Mishra to attend medical school, he originally planned to specialize in treating heart disease. However, during his fellowship, he realized that his passion was really with pediatrics. “I love kids and they like me. I am able to talk to them at their level and I appreciate how pure they are,” he explained. “When you ask a child to do something, they do it. Even parents will do things for their children that they wouldn’t for themselves.”

mishra with patientAfter completing his training in India, Dr. Mishra followed another one of his father’s dreams: opening a clinic in his small hometown. “I opened a clinic in Allahabad but I was having a hard time getting people to pay their bills,” Dr. Mishra said. “My patients believed that I didn’t need their money because I was a doctor.” As a result, Dr. Mishra found himself with no income and ultimately, that led to his decision to come to the United States in 1987.

Despite his medical practice in India not working out the way he had hoped, the desire to work and help patients in a small town stayed with Dr. Mishra. After finishing his residency at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, he began applying for jobs in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He received several offers, including one at a facility just two blocks from his house in the cities.

However, it was relentless pursuit of one individual that would bring Dr. Mishra to the Marshall community for the first time.

Finding His Place

 “Ron Jenson was the administrator at Weiner Memorial Hospital in the 90’s and somehow he received my information,” Dr. Mishra explained. “He wouldn’t leave me alone. He showed up after classes and during rotations at the University of Minnesota, he even came to my house once.” The persistence of Ron Jenson paid off as Dr. Mishra agreed to finally take an interview in Marshall.

On his way to the interview, Dr. Mishra got lost and was speeding to get to the hospital on time when he was pulled over by the local police. When he told the police officer he was speeding to get to his interview at the hospital, the officer’s response surprised him.

“He said I was the baby doctor they’ve been talking about, drive fast, and get to the hospital!” Dr. Mishra recalled, chuckling.

This was one of the many instances that helped Dr. Mishra decide that Marshall was the right community for him to build his pediatrics practice. “I realized that every other place I applied, I wanted the job,” Dr. Mishra explained. “Marshall was the only place where community really wanted me. That is the strongest feeling someone can have that they’re needed.”

Mishra measuring child

Dr. Mishra accepted the position and moved to Marshall in 1992. When he arrived, the pediatrics department had not yet been established. He knew that part of his job would be to enhance pediatric care in Marshall, both at the hospital and clinic.

“There was a lot of pressure and responsibility,” Dr. Mishra said. “But I was very comfortable in the new role.” Over the years, Dr. Mishra has put his passion into practice and developed a strong pediatric practice at ACMC in Marshall. “This department is my baby and I truly love these children. It is not about where I work, it’s about the children. They are my owner and master, that’s why I plan to retire here,” he said.

Another benefit to staying in Marshall has been Dr. Mishra’s chance to treat the children of patients he had when he first started his practice. In addition, he has created invaluable relationships with his fellow healthcare providers. “Through the years some of the providers in this clinic have become my best friends,” he said.

Although Dr. Mishra was persuaded to Marshall by the one individual at the hospital many years ago, he believes that his team is what has kept him here all these years. “I came not knowing much about ACMC or the community but I’ve truly grown to love it,” he shared. “They gave me the freedom to develop a system that truly benefited my patients. I am very grateful for that.”