Dr. Amarjit Dhaliwal provides compassionate care for cancer patients, readily expresses his political opinions and once hosted a former U.S. president at his home.
The oncologist soon will receive another honor. The Stanislaus Medical Society has named him Physician of the Year for 2015. The annual John Darroch Memorial Award is given to a physician who exemplifies professionalism, dedication to patient care and community involvement.
Dhaliwal has practiced in the Central Valley for 24 years and treats patients at Valley Cancer Medical Group in Modesto. The group also opened Valley Cancer Medical Center in Manteca in July 2013 to provide chemotherapy, radiation treatment and imaging services to patients in southern San Joaquin County.
The outpatient center in the Spreckels business area treats more than 20 people per day for lung cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, prostate cancer and other diseases.
Dhaliwal said his industrious wife, Rupinder, was essentially the contractor for the building project, coordinating the work of subcontractors to construct the facilities. He said patients needing treatment spend about two hours at the outpatient center, while the treatment experience at a hospital is far more time-consuming.
He said an analysis showed the annual treatment cost per patient is $6,500 less at an outpatient cancer center.
Other physicians in the group are Robert Levy, who specializes in medical oncology and hematology, and Darwin Yip, specializing in radiation oncology.
Dhaliwal is active in the Democratic Party and hosted former President Bill Clinton at a fundraiser held at his Del Rio home on March 30, 2008. Clinton was raising campaign money for his wife’s run for the White House. Dhaliwal had met the former president in Stockton just before the February 2008 California primary.
Clinton spoke to supporters for about 10 minutes in the backyard of the Dhaliwals’ home. “He is a very intelligent man,” the doctor said. “In my opinion, he was one of our best presidents.”
The Modesto physician has cheered the health reforms in the Affordable Care Act. Although no set of laws is perfect, he said, people with pre-existing health conditions now can be covered by health insurance, and parents can keep their children on their health plans until age 26. Before the federal law, some of his patients would lose their insurance in the middle of their fight against cancer, he said.
Dhaliwal has long been a business partner of Levy’s. His partner’s daughter, Chandra Levy, was a federal Bureau of Prisons intern who went missing in May 2001. Her remains later were discovered in a wooded park in Washington, D.C.
Dhaliwal said he covered Levy’s practice while the family suffered through the search and homicide investigation. “He is more than a friend,” Dhaliwal said. “I feel like he is my brother. He is a very compassionate physician.”
This year’s Physician of the Year decided to become a doctor when he was in seventh grade in his native India. He visited a state medical school and was impressed with the doctors and students clad in their white coats.
He graduated from the Government Medical College in Punjab Province and completed a fellowship in cancer treatment at Medical College of Wisconsin. He received his internal medicine training at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
Dhaliwal’s two daughters are studying for careers in medicine. Jasmeet graduated from Central Catholic High School and went straight to the six-year medical school in India that her father attended. She has taken her first board exam in the U.S. and plans to begin a residency in the Central Valley.
Harleen attended University of California, Irvine, and will attend medical school. Dhaliwal’s oldest son, Treet, holds an economics degree from UC Berkeley and has worked for Morgan Stanley. His son Amrit attends Central Catholic.
“I am very fortunate to practice medicine in this community,” Dhaliwal said. “I have wonderful colleagues.”
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.