Dr. Vishal Mehta ’91 is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine with an emphasis on arthroscopic procedures of the shoulder and knee, and cartilage transplantation and restoration. He is the President of Fox Valley Orthopedic Institute, where he leads the organization to achieving its goal of providing exceptional, innovative orthopedic care to Chicagoland and beyond.
Dr. Mehta began his career in high finance, and over the years he has successfully combined his skills and passions, leveraging his orthopedic knowledge and business acumen into innovative business ventures such as Healthy-TXT™ and MedWaitTime.
The founder of the Fox Valley Orthopedic Research Foundation – a laboratory designed to test and develop orthopedic implants – Dr. Mehta is an instructor of many surgical technique courses.
He is also the founder of the Foundation for International Orthopedic Development, a not-for-profit organization chartered to develop and teach arthroscopic surgery in Sub-Saharan Africa.
An enthusiastic innovator who is keenly interested in improving healthcare, Dr. Mehta constantly strives to develop new and technologically-savvy ways to help foster more harmonious patient-physician relations. He is also honored to represent orthopaedic surgeons within Illinois by serving as the president of the Illinois Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
What has been your journey since graduating from MPA?
I’ve had a bit of a circuitous route to where I am now.
When I started college at the University of Michigan, I was gung-ho about business and really wanted to get into finance, but I was finding myself more and more interested in medicine.
So I ended up transferring home to Loyola University Chicago and working essentially full-time at an asset management firm, doing equity analysis and just learning the ropes in finance while getting my undergrad degree.
But at the same time, I also made the decision and the commitment to go into medicine. I went to the University of Illinois College of Medicine and had a great experience, really enjoyed it. I did my residency in orthopedic surgery at the University of Chicago for five years and then went to California for a fellowship in sports medicine.
Since then, I’ve been practicing in the western suburbs of Chicago at Fox Valley Orthopedic Institute, where I’ve got a busy practice in sports medicine, operating mostly on shoulders and knees. And since I run the organization as president and managing partner, I do a lot of financial and strategic work, which is nice.
“You were learning not only from your teachers and from the books, but you were learning from the people around you. It was almost like a college type of environment.”
Orthopedic surgery and healthcare in general is a fascinating place right now because there’s a lot of room for innovation. There’s a lot of inefficiencies and it lends itself to new models of doing things.
So I get to use my business background and I’ve got a couple of healthcare startups that I enjoy working on. I feel like I’ve landed on the right blend of true healthcare, where I can fix people with my own hands, which is incredibly rewarding, and at the same time can satisfy my appetite for business.
How did MPA prepare you for success?
We learned the hard facts that you need to learn, and there also was a fair amount of time to reflect upon that — and reflecting upon that within an environment that was so diverse was really helpful.
You were learning not only from your teachers and from the books, but you were learning from the people around you. It was almost like a college type of environment where there was a lot of interaction and a lot of global thought, rather than just rote memorization. I think that’s really helpful.
Also, a lot of my classmates were just ambitious people. You felt that ambition and that propels you as well. There was a culture of that there.
There were plaques on campus for alumni who had passed away in wars like World War II and the Korean War, and as kids, it was amazing to see the names of people from our school who had made the ultimate sacrifice. That history, combined with the feeling of the people around you, really made you feel like doing something to make your life worthwhile.
There was an overall aura about the school itself. There were amazing classmates that were from all different parts of the world and all different parts of the city who were interested in making things happen, combined with the teachers and the environment that would give you a time for free thought and communication around hard topics.
I think that’s really a nice recipe for success.
When you think back to Morgan Park Academy, what comes to mind?
MPA is such a part of me; I started there when I was five — or actually, even younger. My parents had lobbied for them to let me start kindergarten early. I was only 16 when I graduated.
So my earliest memories really start with MPA. I can still vividly remember a book from my kindergarten teacher, Mr. Case. I actually kept the book. I don’t remember if it was a coloring book or a reading book, but I still have that in my memory box somewhere.
I remember hatching our chicken eggs in the classroom — just very warm memories of my childhood at MPA from that young age.
MPA helped me a lot with that, just learning, going from the comfort of a kindergarten classroom to having to navigate high school hallways and having to go from the grade school, to the middle school, to the high school and getting more and more independence along the way.
I think it was the right amount of independence at the right points. That helps you mature a lot. And at the same time, I think the setting was great, being surrounded by people that were pretty diverse from multiple different standpoints.
It gives you a better way to approach life and approach the world. It couldn’t be any more pertinent today, where we live in such a polarizing time and it’s important to understand other people’s viewpoints and where other people come from and to have that sort of global understanding and compassion.
MPA really did instill that in us.
Which teachers made the biggest impact on you?
I had great experiences with so many, but it’s funny how you don’t really appreciate it at the time.
With Mr. [Thomas] Malcolm, I used to be nervous to go to his science class, but in retrospect, he did a good job of preparing me. Tony Churchill helped me a lot through Middle School, and through sports. John Torres with baseball and with math, Dr. Larry Brown with science, Jim Kowalsky with soccer — I’ve got a ton of fond memories from lots of different teachers there.
As a student, you never really appreciate how hard your teacher is working or the amount of compassion they bring to their job. But now, being a parent with kids, I can really appreciate how committed those teachers were and how much they cared. I really appreciate it, looking back at that time.