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Physician Changes Career Path to Help Patients Suffering with a Disease He Knows Well

May 16, 2024 - Virtua’s New Crohn’s & Colitis Center Offers Comprehensive Care for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

May 16, 2024

Sanket Patel, DO, is a gastroenterologist and director of the new Virtua Crohn’s and Colitis Center in Moorestown, NJ. He is a fellowship trained expert in the diagnosis and treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)—a career inspired by his own journey as an IBD patient who was misdiagnosed for years.

“I want to help people, so they don’t have to undergo the journey I did,” said Dr. Patel. “Many people with IBD can spend months or even years bouncing between treatments without getting to the bottom of their often-debilitating symptoms.”

IBD encompasses Crohn’s disease—chronic inflammation of the digestive tract—and ulcerative colitis (UC)—ulcers along the lining of the colon and rectum. Both conditions usually cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue. IBD can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms can overlap with other gastrointestinal problems. Often, patients receive a misdiagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is a common condition defined as a group of symptoms including chronic abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, abdominal bloating, and gas. While IBS conditions may overlap with IBD, there may be triggers that can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes; medications may also help to control the symptoms. IBD, on the other hand, can flare up at any time often with alarming symptoms like diarrhea associated with urgency, incontinence, bleeding, nighttime awakening, and weight loss. IBD, currently, has no known cause.

Patel’s own journey with IBD began when he first experienced symptoms at age eighteen. Misdiagnosed with IBS, he spent nearly three years dealing with debilitating symptoms before receiving a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis—a disease that can cause destructive inflammation and permanent harm to the intestines and can lead to colon cancer. He was treated with medications that changed his life for the better. Patel’s newfound relief from IBD also changed his career path. Instead of pursuing a PhD in organic chemistry, he switched his major in college from chemistry to medicine with the goal of becoming a gastroenterologist. Not only did Dr. Patel realize that goal, but he went even further and became a gastroenterologist who is fellowship trained in IBD from Cedars Sinai, an internationally recognized medical center for IBD.

Now, as director of Virtua’s Crohn’s and Colitis Center, Patel has created a comprehensive center where patients can see all of their providers in one convenient location. Virtua’s team includes experienced gastroenterologists who specialize in diagnosing and treating IBD with the latest medical therapies including biologic medications and minimally invasive procedures—providing options that meet a patient’s needs and are tailored to meet an individual’s lifestyle and preferences. A registered dietitian provides personalized nutrition plans for IBD patients while a clinical nurse navigator coordinates care and connections to support services.

“Our short-term goal is for patients to feel confident about managing their symptoms,” explained Patel. “Our long-term goal is to promote bowel healing and decrease the risk of cancer while also focusing on reducing the risk of complications, allowing patients to get back to their normal lives with confidence.”

Patel and his staff also know that emotional support is important when helping patients with IBD. Patients may experience social anxiety, intimacy issues, and fear of doctors and hospitals. “Our team understands the challenges our patients have faced, and we make sure they get the physical and emotional support they need,” he explained.

A Patient’s Story—"I am living a normal life thanks to Dr. Patel.”
Jennifer Lang, a 35-year-old teacher and mother of two young children from Marlton, NJ has experienced gastrointestinal issues (GI) since college. At first, her symptoms were blamed on anxiety and a nervous stomach. Eventually, she was told she had IBS.

“The diagnosis I received when I was younger was very general and very vague,” explained Lang.

The GI symptoms intensified last summer when she contracted C. diff, clostridioides difficile, an infection that causes severe diarrhea, cramping, dehydration, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss. Lang contracted the infection after taking several courses of antibiotics to treat strep throat, sinus infections, and ear infections. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people are more likely to contract C. diff while on antibiotics. This is because antibiotics that fight bacterial infections kill “bad” germs but can also kill the “good” germs protecting the body against harmful infections like C. diff.

It took a several months for Lang to receive a diagnosis of C. diff. “My symptoms were so severe, I couldn’t leave the house,” she explained.

Once the diagnosis was made, her physician was able to manage her C. diff infection with antibiotics that cured the infection. However, after undergoing a colonoscopy, she was also diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. When the treatment prescribed to treat her UC did not improve her symptoms, Lang decided to seek a second opinion with Dr. Patel. After reviewing her medical history, Dr. Patel recommended a six-week course of steroids followed by intravenous infusions of biologic medications every other month. Lang’s UC symptoms are now under control, and she feels like a new person.

“Before becoming Dr. Patel’s patient, I felt like I was stuck. I felt like I was not living my life to the fullest,” she explained. “Now, I am living a normal life thanks to Dr. Patel. I would recommend him a million times over.”