Why would a physician from India who did his residency in Brooklyn want to live and practice medicine for nearly 40 years in Los Banos?
Dr. Karthikeya Devireddy has several reasons. He loves America and appreciates the Los Banos community. And he grew up in a farming community in India. The fields and orchards in and around Los Banos feel like home.
Soon Dr. Devireddy will be celebrating his 40th anniversary of practicing medicine in Los Banos. In 1980 he stopped by the small community, then with a population of about 10,000, to visit a colleague of his, Dr. Dasartha Vemireddy, who went to the same medical school in Guntur, India, several years earlier.
Vemireddy, a cardiologist, shared offices with Dr. John Mevi, an internist, at 400 W. I St. Several months after Devireddy came by, Mevi had a heart attack, and Devireddy, an internist, was called and asked him to fill in while Mevi recovered. Devireddy agreed. After Mevi recovered, he asked Devireddy to stay, and he did.
When asked why he’s been in Los Banos so long, Dr. Devireddy is quick to say, “One day I came and then never left.” As he reflected, he added, “I wanted to develop good primary care for both adults and children. I also wanted to recruit a lot of specialists to come to town, so members of the Westside community do not have to travel so far for their health care needs.”
Since coming to Los Banos Devireddy gradually built a practice that eventually included a wide variety of physicians and staff. Working with him for more than 28 years has been his administrate assistant, Debbie Perry, who is also a registered nurse. Perry remembers when she once was working with all three doctors, they were informally referred to as “the Mevi, Devi and Vemi doctors.”
Early on Mevi would often say that Devireddy had good business sense. Mevi was something of a prophet because soon after he retired, Devireddy went on to create his own practice and built it up considerably. Devireddy recognized that Los Banos needed a medical practice that could serve a wide variety of patients, including those covered by Medicare and Medi-Cal, with services in their own community.
He decided to construct his own medical building near the local hospital and to apply for Rural Health Care status. He achieved both in 2005 when he started the Apex Medical Group in a small facility at 311 West I St.
Soon after opening Apex he realized he needed doctors with other specialties to work alongside him. He hired Dr. Kumar, another doctor who earned his medical degree in India, to be Apex’s specialist in pediatrics.
Later Devireddy added radiology to Apex and offered services like routine X-rays, mammography and all modalities of ultrasound. Over the years he has continued to employ technology. He was the first local medical professional to utilize EMR-Electronic Medical Records and Telehealth.
As he kept expanding services, including sports medicine and podiatry, he needed to expand his facility, first adding a second floor, then a second building, then a second floor on the second building.
Landlocked, he added more space several blocks down at 400 West I Street, in the same building where he had been practicing years before, now calling it Apex Annex Urgent Care. As a result, patients still could be seen, even if all providers at the Apex Medical Group building were full.
In 2017 he expanded services to help residents in Dos Palos, first near the old hospital and now near city hall.
Today Devireddy employs 9 full-time physician and 6 physician assistants. His total number of employees is more than 100, which makes him a major contributor to the local economy. In an area which has long had a shortage of doctors, he is providing to Los Banos residents a remarkable array of services in their hometown.
He has also helped other doctors who, as he did in 1979, needed help in establishing a practice, including specialists who have provided services in internal medicine, pediatrics, podiatry, cardiology and urgent care.
He has recruited numerous highly trained physicians to Merced County and has assisted them in establishing their own medical practice in the county. Over the years he has helped physicians not only from India, but from other countries like Taiwan and Jordan.
Many of these physicians are required to work in a federally designated undeserved area of the United States for a minimum of three years to fulfill federal immigration requirements. As Dr. Devireddy has seen firsthand, though, most end up staying in the Los Banos community for far longer—four, five, six years and more.
Despite the anticipated turnover, Devireddy and his assistant Debbie Perry have worked hard to hire only the most caring, as well as most competent, doctors. “When we interview applicants,” Perry said, “we ask each doctor if he or she is willing to follow our guideline. We want each doctor to treat each patient as if it were his or her brother or sister or grandmother or grandfather.
“Only we firmly believe doctors are willing to do this,” Perry added, “will we hire them. And, based on the comments we get from our patients, we have been successful. So many people compliment Apex on the personal, empathetic care they get from our doctors.”
Dr. Devireddy has no plans on retiring. He wants to continue to offer medical services needed by residents of Los Banos and surrounding communities like Dos Palos, Firebaugh, Gustine and Newman regardless of their income, whenever possible without leaving the local area.
Recent news stories have highlighted that Merced County has a severe shortage of doctors. So it’s no wonder that many Los Banos residents are grateful that Dr. Karthikeya Devireddy came, stayed, and built a practice that provides the health care they need.
John Spevak wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org