Rajan Gurunathan, MD, was an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the early 1990s weighing his career options.
“I went through a lot of permutations, actually,” he says. “Scientist, clinical researcher, doctor, physician/scientist—all of those things entered my mind at some point.”
He applied to dual-track MD and PhD programs, but ultimately decided that interacting with people—patients in particular—was the goal for him. He earned his medical degree from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Camden, N.J., and completed his internship in the department of medicine at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, not far from where he grew up as a child in northern New Jersey.
And he never left.
I’ve always enjoyed the collegiality of a hospital environment in terms of multiple disciplines working together in ways to help care for patients. It’s a paradox in the sense that it’s fascinating to see disease and be able to be impactful in that way, but it’s also unfortunate sometimes to see what people have to go through.
—Anthony Back, MD, professor of medicine, University of Washington, Seattle
Dr. Gurunathan has risen through the ranks at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt, from resident to chief resident to chief of the section of hospital medicine. He is a faculty member for the Clinical Quality Fellowship Program at the Great New York Hospital Association and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.
His long tenure at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt has been “an incredible experience because I really get a sense and feeling of commitment from the community,” he adds. “I’ve seen it grow over time and see how the needs have changed and how the service the hospital has been able to provide has only grown over time.”
After several years of presenting posters at SHM’s annual meetings, Dr. Gurunathan joined Team Hospitalist in April 2012 to become an even more active member of his specialty.
QUESTION: When you started as an intern 15 years ago, did you expect that you’d still be at the same institution?
Answer: No, I wouldn’t have expected that at all. In fact, there was a time where I was briefly considering a general medicine fellowship at Johns Hopkins, and I was prepared to go there. And family circumstances, etc., made me decide not to move on and to make a commitment and join the department as faculty, first as a chief and then as faculty. And I was really lucky to have those opportunities, because while my course didn’t go exactly the way that I’d planned, I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Q: When you now deal with the residents and younger staff members, what’s that experience like for you?
A: It’s a really neat experience, and often brings a chuckle to my face when I see that they’re frustrated about the same things, because I can certainly commiserate. But I can really also see the value of what they provide every day, and having been in their shoes, I know a little bit about what they’ve been through and the work that they do. So I have a real appreciation for that.
Q: What brought you to hospital medicine?
A: I’ve always enjoyed the collegiality of a hospital environment in terms of multiple disciplines working together in ways to help care for patients. It’s a paradox in the sense that it’s fascinating to see disease and be able to be impactful in that way, but it’s also unfortunate sometimes to see what people have to go through.