For Pankaj G. Shah, M.D., caring for his patients’ eyes is not just a career but a calling – a calling that led him to establish the Shah Eye Center, now one of the region’s foremost vision care centers.

Offering superior quality service and products has always been Dr. Shah’s dream. Born in India, he moved to the U.S. at the age of four with his family. His father earned a doctorate and moved the family to Ohio and Texas before settling in New Jersey.

Young Pankaj Shah completed his four-year college degree at Rutgers University in just three years, graduating in the top 10 percent of the class. He then graduated from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “I was introduced to several different specialties there and when I found ophthalmology, I knew it was the field that really suited me,” he recalled. He completed an internship in internal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and then an ophthalmology residency at New Jersey Medical School. After that, Dr. Shaw completed a fellowship in corneal and refractive surgery at LSU Eye Center in New Orleans. Dr. Shah is board certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

There are three categories of professionals at Shah Eye Center. Opticians fill eyeglass prescriptions. Doctors of optometry (ODs) examine, diagnose, write optical prescriptions, and treat and manage diseases, injuries and disorders of the eye. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who provide a wider range of vision services. Only ophthalmologists like Dr. Shah treat and diagnose a complete comprehensive range of eye disorders, no matter how complex. Only ophthalmologists are allowed to perform eye surgery.

When Dr. Shah moved to Texas the second time, he met his wife, Nora. Together they opened a center in Mission and set about pursuing their dream of creating a full-care vision center. Since opening in Mission in 1998, Dr. Shah’s Eye Center has added offices in McAllen, Laredo and Weslaco. He also added three eye care professionals to his team: ophthalmologists Drs. Carlos E. Dias and Mamta Patel, and Dr. Salvatore Alcantar, an optometrist.

“I wanted people who would reflect my point of view and take care of people the right way and I was fortunate to find the doctors who believe as I do,” Dr. Shah said.

Dr. Shah prides himself in staying abreast of treatment advances in eye care. “The field has changed tremendously over the past few years. There have been vast improvements in all areas of eye care. When I graduated from med school, we had to use a small incision and ultrasound to break up a cataract. Now we do it all using a laser. While cataract patients formerly had only the option of getting a single distance lens, we can now implant a lens that provides patients with near perfect eyesight,” he added.

There have been huge improvements in other eye treatments as well. “Lasik has come a long way. We now perform Lasik using a laser instead of a blade and we can customize it so that the majority of people end up with 20/20 vision.

“Macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, robs people of their ability to read, drive, work and live a normal life. Before, the most we could do was stabilize the vision but we now have a treatment that can not only do this, but bring back vision that has been lost,” said Dr. Shah. There are also new treatments for glaucoma, he added.

Because vision is arguably our most important sense, it’s no wonder that Dr. Shah derives great satisfaction in saving it. “Our patients see better almost immediately, which is very rewarding,” he said. “Every year there are new technological advances and new medicines for our patients and that is very gratifying.” Techniques using lasers have been “game changers,” he noted, and there is also new ongoing research “which will accentuate what we’ve done and allow us to do more than before,” he added.

When he is not busy nurturing his growing practice, Dr. Shah enjoys spending time with his wife and their four children. “I love to spend time with the kids,” he said. He’s also a runner and plays tennis.

Shah Eye Center sponsors a wide variety of community events and Dr. Shah and his doctors are on hand at numerous local health fairs. Most of all, Dr. Shah enjoys treating his patients and restoring their sight. As he put it, “We do our best for each patient and our goal is to hit that high note every single time.”

By Charlotte Libov