Article originally published Spring 2023 in The Monitor magazine.
As a child, Avneet Singh, MS, MD, was exposed to the world of healthcare in a way that only the daughter of a physician can be. For 16 years, her father, Kanwaljit Singh, MD, was the sole oncologist in Lancaster, which meant that his wife, Preet Singh, and their three children often assisted him with the daily operations of running a busy practice.
“My mom was really involved in the billing and administrative stuff, and I can remember as a kid helping her make calls to Medicare or Medicaid – I was not very good at it!” Avneet said with a laugh. “But I had a lot of exposure to my dad’s world. And because of that, I was able to go into healthcare with my eyes wide open.”
Years later, Avneet would find herself working closely with her father again, this time with a lot more knowledge and expertise under her belt. In 2022, she joined the medical team at Fairfield Healthcare Professionals Pulmonology & Critical Care at Fairfield Medical Center, where she cares for patients alongside three other pulmonologists. Kanwaljit, who departed FMC in April after 28 years with the organization, was an oncologist with Fairfield Healthcare Professionals Hematology & Oncology.
Avneet said while she never imagined her healthcare journey would one day land her at the same hospital where her father also worked, she said there is no doubt in her mind that she made the right choice in staying close to home and family.
“For me, Fairfield Medical Center was just too good of an opportunity to turn down,” Avneet said. “The practice that I’m with is made up of some of the best physicians I’ve ever met.”
That’s not to say the decision was an easy one, at least not initially. As providers whose specialties often converged, Avneet admits that she had some initial hesitation about working for an organization where her father was so well known and respected.
“He has a legacy here, and I just want to live up to that reputation because I know how hard he and my mom worked to become a part of this community and to serve it for so long,” Avneet said.
Born and raised in India, Kanwaljit completed pre-med and medical school in his native country before coming to the United States to continue his education. While moonlighting at FMC during his fellowship at The Ohio State University, he met oncologist Jerome Roche, MD, who encouraged him to consider oncology as a specialty. When Dr. Roche retired in 1996, Kanwaljit took over his practice. In 2012, he joined the medical team at FMC. Through the years, he has always lived in Lancaster.
“There was never a reason for me to leave here,” he said. “I could not have asked for a better community to serve and raise my family in.”
Kanwaljit said he noticed early on that Avneet had the aptitude to pursue a career in medicine. Avneet said it’s something her parents recognized long before she did. “Ultimately my parents were right – that’s maybe the only time I’ll ever admit that,” she joked.
However, it took some time to figure out her place in medicine. It wasn’t until she began caring for patients during her residency and fellowship – which coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – that she discovered her passion for pulmonary medicine and critical care.
“Caring for that patient population was one I really enjoyed working with in terms of helping them manage their symptoms and prevent hospitalizations,” she said.
Figuring out where to land as a provider proved more challenging. While she enjoyed being on her own during her residency in Vermont, she felt a persistent pull to come back to Ohio.
“It just felt weird to be away from my family and the support networks I had established here,” she said. “I feel drawn to serve a rural population that needs good access to healthcare. I see a lot of opportunities for patient education where I can empower people with information about their diseases and their bodies.”
Kanwaljit said he was surprised but happy when he learned that Avneet would be staying in Lancaster. That feeling has become even more bittersweet as he and his wife prepare to leave the community they love to move closer to their aging parents in California, where he plans to work for a few more years. “Fairfield Medical Center is the only place I’ve ever worked my whole life, and I would have liked to finish my career here,” he said.
Avneet said in the short time that she and her father worked side by side, she learned a lot from him about how to be a good provider.
“I’ve taken a lot from how he sets up conversations, how he’s honest and straightforward and helps lead patients through really difficult times and decisions,” she said. “I do think my dad’s a lot quieter than I am; I’m a little louder and I’m in a different specialty, which I think requires some different personality characteristics.”
She added it’s an honor to continue her family’s legacy of serving Central Ohio and caring for patients at FMC.
“I think it was a combination of timing and fate that I came back when I did,” she said. “I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I have a lot of good role models around me. If I leave half the legacy that my father did, I’ll have achieved something.”