Ahad Fazelat works to make sure blindness is not an option for vets
Fazelat and his partners at Bellows, Goodman, Shaker and Siegal (BGSS) Medical Eye Center in Manchester, are contracted with the Veterans Administration to provide treatment of macular degeneration and other retinal diseases.
Fazelat, 39, said many veterans, most of whom are men, often have to travel two hours round-trip to Boston for five-hour visits, something he feels prevents some of them from receiving treatment. The lack of treatment can cause blindness, and Fazelat said that's not an option.
"I believe a lot of veterans get care as much as they can and tertiary services are sent to Massachusetts. They would have to travel to Boston 12 times a year, and I feel they become disenfranchised. It puts a strain on them financially and emotionally," he said. "It's a way for us to provide the tertiary services the veterans need locally."
He focuses on developing a treatment geared toward each patient and their needs, which also offers them hope.
"Everything in my practice is centered around treatment plans. I don't want them to think, and I've heard, that because of the financial stresses it makes them feel they're just a number," he said.
Fazelat was described in the nomination for the 40 Under Forty program as having a bedside manner that puts his patients at ease, regardless of their age, ethnic or economic status. He attributes this demeanor as innate and environmental.
"Being the youngest of eight children, I always had elderly parents, and many of my patients are elderly. For me, it is uncanny that patients would take on the persona of my parents, and it's easy for me to understand their needs and communicate with them," he said. "They look the same, have the same characteristics, and they even smell the same as my mom and dad. It has served me well in my practice. If you can't identify with your patients, you can't really understand the problem."
Fazelat was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and his father predicted the coup of 1978 and that the country would fall. His family moved to England when he was 3 years old, and he came to the United States in 1980 when he was age 5. He grew up in Missouri, where he earned his bachelor's degree. His pursuit of a medical degree took him to New York and Boston. Before he went to medical school, he was working with a glaucoma specialist, which led him to specialize in surgical ophthalmology.
Fazelat and his wife, Joyia Fazelat, an emergency room physician at the Elliot Hospital, have three children, Sammy, 5, Anna, 3, and Joseph, 1. The family moved to Bedford in 2011, however, Joyia was raised in Bedford, and attended Peter Woodbury School and The Derryfield School.
Fazelat said he admires Pope Francis because he goes out of his way to understand people.
"I read stories about when he was in Argentina he would live like a miser. He continues to live in an austere environment, and I hear he goes out in laymen's clothing at night to help the poor. I think that's admirable," said Fazelat. "If you're delivering a message or medical care, you have to understand the people you're trying to help."