Ross University Blog

SPOTLIGHT: Dr. Vijay Rajput

August 17, 2015

Vijay Rajput, MD,FACP,SFHM, RUSM Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director of RUSM's Office for Student Professional Development

Vijay Rajput, MD,FACP,SFHM, RUSM Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director of RUSM's Office for Student Professional Development

Dr. Vijay Rajput joined the faculty of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) in March with a mission to spread the practice of humanistic medicine. He hopes to educate the next generation of physicians to view each patient’s illness in the context of his or her life.

Born and educated in Mumbai, India, Rajput says that he came to the U.S. with solid surgical skills, but learned to think more holistically during his internship and residency in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Since then, his mentors, students, and patients have taught him volumes about the value of empathic listening, clear communication, and respecting the bio-psycho-social aspects of disease. These principles, he says, inform his thinking both as a physician and as a teacher.

Before arriving to RUSM’s administrative office in Miramar, Rajput was a member of the senior faculty at Cooper University Hospital’s, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) in Camden, N.J. where he headed the Division of Medical Education, directed the Internal Medicine Residency, and was Assistant Dean for curriculum development for the new school. He also chaired the ethics committee, and was active in clinical medicine as a senior academic hospitalist. In addition to holding these positions, Rajput was an associate fellow at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania for four years and served on several committees for the American College for Physicians (ACP). He has authored or co-authored more than 80 papers, abstracts and book chapters on student development, medical education, and ethics and received 15 awards for excellence in teaching at the local and national levels.

What message do you hope your students will take away from your courses and why is it important?
Throughout healthcare, professionals are spending more time on the computer and less time at the bedside. This trend has been taking place over the last 20-30 years, and over the last 10 years it has gotten even worse. I don’t think the profession has figured out how to integrate the computer into bedside patient care. As a result, we don’t spend enough time getting to know patients or explaining our thinking to them in simple language.

If you make things simple for patients you make the information more meaningful to them. The same holds true for communicating with students. We sometimes get lost in scientific jargon and the complexity of healthcare, so I try to boil my philosophy down to three simple principles: 1. Listen to the patient, 2. Take care of the patient (as opposed to “treating” the patient), 3. Go the extra mile for the patient.

Research has shown that when healthcare professionals demonstrate compassion and empathy, patients are more likely to follow medical instructions and therefore heal more quickly. This results in better outcomes and cost-savings for the entire healthcare system.

Can you provide a few examples of what you mean by “going the extra mile?”
If you are a physician and you walk into a patient’s hospital room in the morning and the patient is waiting for a glass of water, you get him the glass of water. Or if an elderly woman can’t open her milk carton, you open it and pour the milk for her. These simple actions may not be part of your job description, but they can make a big difference to the patient. Practicing medicine isn’t about making a brilliant diagnosis anymore. It is about making patients comfortable and caring for them.

What are some ways in which you have taught these concepts?  
At CMSRU I developed a chronic care clerkship to fill a gap in U.S. students’ knowledge of how to take care of patients with chronic conditions such as HIV, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic musculoskeletal and neurological diseases. I also created a four-week course called LifeStages, which looks at the psychological, economic and socio-cultural dimensions of health throughout the life cycle, from infancy through geriatrics. Students learn about how things like memory, cognition, pain, substance abuse, accidents and injuries, sexuality, domestic violence, sleep, safety and end-of-life care relate to each age group, and focus on the relationships between the life stages.

How did you become interested in bioethics?
When I came to the U.S., I had no knowledge about ethics, professionalism, or informed consent. I realized that this was an area I needed to learn about so I decided to get that education. I completed a postgraduate diploma in Medical Law and Ethics at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and that opened a lot of doors for me.

What made you choose to come to RUSM after 22 years at CMSRU?
When you reach age 50 you ask yourself, what will help you develop a legacy? Now, at age 53, I’m thinking about how many people I can reach and how I can make a meaningful difference in their lives. At Ross I have the chance to educate thousands of students per year, so I decided to take a risk and try something new. I also appreciate that Ross is providing a second chance to many of its students. These students may have struggled in a course such as organic chemistry, or been forced to pursue a prior career for family or financial reasons. I like those kinds of students. They are generally mature and not entitled; they appreciate having a second chance and they want to do well.

What do you like to do in your “spare” time?
I enjoy reading publications outside of medicine, such as the New York Times Sunday Magazine, National Geographic, and the Harvard Business Review. I also enjoy American movies, politics and of course American football.


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