Get to know Dr. Rajesh Bhagat, faculty in Pulmonary and Critical Care. A seasoned educator and clinician, Dr. Bhagat is the Director of the MICU at the VA Hospital.
What is your professional background?
I attended medical school at the University of Delhi in India. After that I trained in Respiratory Medicine. In 1993, I moved to Canada to research asthma at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. After two years I came to Columbia, Missouri, for a residency in Internal Medicine, and then to Durham, North Carolina, for a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Duke University.
Tell us about what you do at VA and UMMC.
In the last two decades I have worked at both the VAMC and UMMC. Besides working as a clinician in the ICU, I have been the fellowship program director for the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care, I got a VA grant to research lung fibrosis, and now I am the VA MICU Director. I lecture medical students in biochemistry and physiology, and I mentor and help residents and fellows with case presentations and research. My favorite thing to do though is bedside teaching. I tremendously enjoy talking to the veterans about their experiences. Their stories give you a new perspective to life.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing medicine today?
I always tell medical students working with me they have chosen a profession which is very fulfilling, exciting and humbling.
It also provides you with innumerable options to match your interests and personality. Many subspecialties and avenues for research, administration, informatics, interventional procedures, and health care management are available.
What do you like most about UMMC?
Since I finished medical school, exactly half my physician life has been with the patients, students, residents and colleagues here in Mississippi. It tells you how much I have enjoyed doing what I do here. I will be honest, there have been challenging times, self-restraining moments and enlightening days of course. Life has been like a Gumbo – spicy but fun. I have met some of the best residents and fellows in my career here. I was once told that in academic life you get only two or three excellent fellows. I have already reached double figures and I am still counting. And the challenges make me grow and the love from everyone keeps me going.
Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.
Both my parents were in academics and they instilled early on the importance of being a teacher in me. My dad was, for a time, the only physician in a 100-bed hospital in India. He did everything: he managed deliveries, did all types of surgeries, including eye and neurosurgeries, treated burns, he organized vasectomy camps, he even managed cholera and smallpox outbreaks. The idea of specializing was foreign to him. When I became a lung doctor, he teased me: “Now, are you an expert in the right lung or the left lung?” Then he would laugh and say “Maybe right middle lobe.”
I grew up not only privileged but also very lucky. I have had the honor of working, interacting, exchanging notes and having a drink with some of the top Pulmonary/Critical Care physicians in India, Canada and the US, some even from across the rest of the world.
Last but not the least, in this journey I have been blessed with some of the most kind, generous, well-meaning supportive people, and awesome friends and family.