This week’s Newsweek magazine story on “presidential physical” exams offered to the public by Dr. Raphael Darvish, a local Iranian Jewish physician, caught my eye. Darvish is the latest example of how rising stars in our community are really making a splash on the national scene with their new ideas and unique innovations. His Brentwood clinic, “Concierge Medicine L.A.”, is the first and the only clinic in the country offering individuals the same comprehensive medical tests the President of the United States receives each year. His clinic’s unique physical exam has also been covered by the local media including the L.A. Daily News and local television news broadcasts on KTLA Channel 5 and KTTV Fox Channel 11. The Newsweek article suggests that the clinic’s presidential physical is not only saving lives by spotting unknown health problems, but giving patients the peace of mind that they’re receiving the “best of the best” possible care:
“The presidential program goes further, making each patient feel like the leader of the free world. The price of a Presidential Physical starts at $1,400. Since the clinic started offering them last November, about 600 people have had one, says Concierge’s medical director, Dr. Raphael Darvish.”
Darvish is by far not your run of the mill Iranian Jewish doctor. He’s a fourth generation physician who has an MBA from UCLA and a rich family history known for being pioneers in the Iranian Jewish community. Most folks in our community are not aware that his great-grandfather, Dr. Habib Levy , was one of the first Jewish officers in the Iranian military and among the first Jews to leave Iran and obtain higher educations in Europe. Levy returned to Iran not only to treat members of the Iranian royal family as their dentist but also dedicated his life to recording Iranian Jewish oral history. Levy’s book, “Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran” is perhaps the most read and accurate record of our community’s history in Iran during the last 2,500 years. So the apple certainly doesn’t fall from the tree with Darvish who is following in those same foot steps.
Recently I chatted with Dr. Darvish about his clinic’s presidential physical and his family’s longstanding ties to the medical field:
How did you come up with the idea to provide the presidential physical to your patients?
When I started the practice here, I realized that the president gets such terrific care and wondered why folks are not getting the same kind of care. Every year on TV you hear about the president getting his physical and they say he’s doing great when he’s leaving the medical center there. So I was interested in knowing what this physical entails, I called the White House and got in touch with physicians of the president. I obtained a copy of his physical examination report—it’s on our website and from that we replicated exactly what he was getting for our own patients. So folks can go on the site and compare their physicals to President Bush’s after the fact. Each year as the physicals get changed,as the technologies change, as the doctors of the president modify their physicals for the president, we do the same and update it.
What kind of responses have you had from your patients and what of kinds of results have come from this presidential physical?
Every patient whether they’re 20 years old or 50 old receives a very complete test. We check every inch of their body from the top of their head to bottom of their feet. During the physical we do different tests to check for a variety of things. Every patient who comes for our physical finds something interesting whether it’s a strategy to help them be healthier and happier or hopefully to living a long life. They also find interesting things about their health that saves them headaches down the road. We had two patients this week that had the presidential physical and one had a heart blockage that he was unaware of. If that heart blockage was not treated it would have exploded and he’d have a heart attack with serious heart damage and even risked morbidity. We also had another patient who was eating a lot of fish because he wanted to be very healthy but his mercury level was toxic. There are an extensive battery of tests that we do as a part of the presidential physical and mercury level is one of them. So we were able to detect that and to direct him as to which fish to have that aren’t so high in mercury and to decrease his fish intake. The last patient that comes to mind is one who had kidney stones and was unaware of it since he was passing blood in his urine. We picked up blood in his urine test and also did an abdominal ultrasound. Then we advised him on what to do to address that because if he didn’t do anything about it, those kidney stones could end up being a problem.
What’s the motivation behind investing more time in treating your patients through this type of physical exam that no one else is offering?
This physical is a lovely item that someone can get done annually. It really allows them all the time they need to ask as many questions they have regarding anything that they may be curious about. It’s wonderful because the standard physician practice allows you 15 minutes with your doctor and those questions you have don’t get answered. Furthermore, not only do your questions not get answered but your problems don’t get addressed. In a 15 minute physician office visit you can only talk about one, two—maybe if you talk really fast, three problems. So as a physician, you can’t really treat the person as a whole because you are working under such time pressures. In this practice we do a presidential physical and have all the time we need to really address every last issue. It really should be done on everybody but unfortunately the way the health care system is structured, we don’t have the time and no doctor would be able to survive providing such thorough care in a standard practice.
Your family members have been working in medicine for many generations, tell me a little bit about that and if was there any pressure on you to get into the medical realm?
I come from a long line of doctors. My great-grandfather was in medicine and my grandfather was a physician who trained in Paris, France. He left Iran at a young age after high school and spent 10 to 15 years training, he returned to Iran to take care of the Iranian population armed with very good knowledge he had gain in Europe. My father followed in his father’s footsteps and went to Bordeaux to complete an eight year medical school program. He subsequently worked in different hospitals throughout France to get his specialty training in internal medicine and gastroenterology. The education back then in Europe was more highly regarded. Growing up here in L.A. with a father as a physician and an older uncle as a physician, it was a pretty easy choice for me to go into medicine and at a young age I got interested in the sciences. I went to Berkeley for college and got into my first choice for medical school which was UCLA, close to my family here. Obviously Persian Jewish folks are family oriented and it was nice to be here with my family during medical school.
Why do you think young people in the Iranian Jewish community are so successful and thriving in such fields as the law, medicine, business and other areas?
I think there’s a lot of drive and encouragement from the close family structure in the Jewish community. There’s quite a bite of encouragement and support for them to go on and become lawyers or doctors and get through those different programs—whether it is financial support or social and emotional support. Beyond that I do think there is some kind of materialism that exists in the community which may encourage folks to involved in more lucrative professions.
Thank you for chatting with me and good luck in your practice.