RACP Fellows in Focus: Associate Professor Rajesh Raj
22 Oct 2021
“A career in medicine seemed like a very natural progression for me,” Associate Professor Rajesh Raj told us when we spoke to him about his career and the path that led him to become a nephrologist.
Upon meeting Rajesh, it became abundantly apparently that his CV was awash with achievements. After training in India and then moving to Launceston, in 2011 he established the renal supportive care service within the Nephrology department at the Launceston General Hospital. Furthermore, he has completed a PhD studying outcomes in the elderly with advanced renal failure, is the Chair of the RACP’s Tasmanian Regional Committee, was an early member of the RACP’s College Council and the College Policy and Advocacy Council. Additionally, he’s a member of the RACP’s Victorian and Tasmanian Education Committee, a member of the Post-Graduate Medical Education Council of Tasmania, and part of the Scientific Committee of the Tasmanian Human Research Ethics Committee. His sabbaticals have focused on renal supportive care in King’s College London, the Cicely Saunders Institute and the Renal department in Edmonton, Canada.
“I come from a family of physicians, so a career in medicine seemed an obvious choice. Once I entered medicine, I thrived on the academic journey. The natural progression was to do post-graduate courses and then sub-specialty training. My sense of curiosity influenced my decision to specialise and even after those years in training, I've kept going academically, adding degrees every few years.”
I'm surrounded by inspiring doctors – my parents, my wife, as well as some other awesome doctors that I've crossed paths with and observed closely. I've also been fortunate in having role models during all my formative years, which has really helped me focus on what it means to be a physician and decide what kind of physician I want to be.”
Rajesh’s career path has, by his own admission, been rather “smooth”. However, he quickly pointed out that early on in his career the challenge of where to go and how to do it was at the forefront. “Like most people, I got into medicine because it seemed a good career and because there was a possibility that you could actually help people while you were doing it. Picking Nephrology as a sub-specialty was also very easy because when you look at all the specialties, this is one field where you know people for very long periods of time. That really appealed to me because there's this opportunity to have long, deep relationships with patients and to see them through very different, difficult times.”
Rajesh has seen remarkable changes in medicine. Rajesh studied at a time when most learning in medicine was passed down via professors and teachers. Textbooks were the main source of information. Learning was from observation and the experience of seniors. “That's changed dramatically. Now that I've become a teacher, my students are learning not just from me, but from all around them. I think I've been lucky that I've been able to see the best of both worlds.”
Looking to the future, we were curious to know if Rajesh has any words of wisdom for the future Fellows of the College. He told us, “Look for opportunities, they are all around you. There are two aspects to training in medicine. There's the academic part, where you really need to know your stuff. Then there's the other side where you have to constantly evaluate yourself as a person and see whether you're progressing. I frequently remind my trainees that in order to make yourself a better doctor, you must look for the grey areas in whatever specialty you're doing. That is, the kind of confronting or controversial situations that nobody (normally) wants to really get into because it's too messy or too involved. I think the joy of medicine is to be found in places like that. Those that are facing the end of life, people who can't be treated, people whose families are suffering. I think this is where medicine really takes off and gives, gives you much more meaning.”