Dr. Sunil Panchal of Westchase, president of the National Institute of Pain in Lutz, has contributed to the field of medicine as a teacher, writer and researcher. But his true passion is in solving the puzzle of pain for his patients.
Panchal, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist with more than 20 years of experience, often employs cutting-edge techniques and devices for pain management rather than just doling out medication.
"It's very rewarding when you actually can solve the problem and improve their quality of life," Panchal said.
Although he has a long list of accomplishments as a contributor to medical journals, his most recent contribution was as the co-editor of "Comprehensive Treatment of Chronic Pain by Medical Interventional, and Integrative Approaches," which is the American Academy of Pain Medicine's textbook on patient management.
He has been asked to sit on a number of academic committees as well as contribute his expertise as a writer and editor.
Originally from Fishkill, N.Y., Panchal moved to the Tampa area with his family 10 years ago. He has three children.
Panchal may be the definition of an "overachiever." He received his medical degree from Albany Medical College of Union University in Albany, N.Y., before performing a residency in anesthesiology at Northwestern University in Chicago, which he followed with a fellowship in pain management at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He also completed the Business of Medicine Graduate Program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
But there is one thing that the Tampa Bay area offers that the north doesn't.
"The weather is great," Panchal said. "I enjoy the Tampa area and the community. It's a great place to raise my kids. From a personal perspective, I like the area. From a professional perspective, I get to see a wide variety of conditions where you can make an impact in people's lives."
He said a lot of his patients are accustomed to physicians mainly prescribing pills to dull their pain. Panchal has been swift to adopt new technologies that have demonstrated success for patients.
He typically performs procedures at area surgical centers including the Tampa Bay Surgery Center, Tampa Outpatient Surgery Center and the USF Morsani Ambulatory Surgery Center.
Patients receive treatment and typically go home the same day.
Although Tampa is home to many well-regarded health care providers, Panchal makes every effort to introduce newer technologies.
"The Tampa area is an underserved population in terms of the more modern pain management techniques," he said. "Right now one of the newer things we are doing is using radio frequency technology for chronic pain. If you have pain in your knee and want to avoid a hip or knee replacement; we are able to treat the nerves of the hip and knee."
He said older people tend to be living longer. Artificial joints may last only 10 years.
New techniques may preserve the natural joints and help a patient delay or avoid having joint replacement, he said.
Panchal said he enjoys seeing the significant improvements often made in a senior citizen's life with techniques such as radio frequency facet denervation. Instead of using a short-term approach such as injecting a steroid for relief of arthritis, RFD is used to treat central neck or back pain.
"When you look at the implications of what we do with the tools we have, you can do so much in different areas," she said.
In addition to solving a patient's pain puzzle, Panchal also tries to protect his patients from overdependence on pain meds. Instead of writing endless prescriptions, Panchal said his goal is to get a firm diagnosis of a patient's condition. He said neck and back pain are two of the most common conditions that motivate people to see their physician, but pain meds may mask the symptoms and cause side effects as well as lead to abuse.
Panchal said he supports the FDA's Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Advisory Committee's efforts to deter prescription drug abuse, and specifically their encouragement of pharmaceutical companies to create formulas that make it more difficult to crush drugs that are commonly abused.
"It's a needed improvement that is well overdue," he said.
For information on the National Institute of Pain, 4911 Van Dyke Road in Lutz, call (813) 264-7246.