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In honor of ACP's Centennial, My Kind of Medicine: IM
Family is a new series of physician profiles featuring
multi-generational internists. The stories will appear in several
issues throughout 2015 to showcase how a tradition of caring and a
passion for internal medicine are passed from one generation to the
ACP Fellow: Rajagopal V. Chadaga, MD, FACP
Current Occupation: Academic Hospitalist, John
Cochran Veterans Medical Center, St. Louis, MO
Residency: St. Elizabeth Medical Center,
Medical School: Kasturba Medical College,
ACP Fellow: Smitha R. Chadaga, MD, FHM,
Current Occupation: Academic Hospitalist,
Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Portland, OR
Chief Residency: Veterans Administration
Hospital, and Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital, Denver, CO
Residency: University of Colorado, Aurora,
Medical School: University of Missouri-Kansas
City School of Medicine, Kansas City, MO
ACP Fellow: Amar R. Chadaga, MD, FACP
Current Occupation: Associate Program Director,
University of Illinois Chicago - Advocate Christ Internal Medicine
Residency Program, Oak Lawn, IL
Chief Residency: McGaw Medical Center of
Northwestern University (Evanston) Internal Medicine Residency
Program, Chicago, IL
Residency: McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern
University (Evanston) Internal Medicine Residency Program, Chicago,
Medical School: Southern Illinois University
School of Medicine, Springfield, IL
In true sibling fashion, Smitha Chadaga, MD, FACP and Amar
Chadaga, MD, FACP found their way to internal medicine by different
paths, but they both say that their father, Rajagopal Chadaga, MD,
FACP, has had a profound impact on their respective careers as
internal medicine physicians. They also credit their success as
physicians to their family-focused upbringing and their parents for
allowing them every opportunity growing up.
Dr. Rajagopal Chadaga: The Patriarch
Dr. Rajagopal Chadaga made such an impact on his two children,
Smitha and Amar, both internal medicine physicians, and he is still
inspiring medical students today. One medical student recently
wrote on an evaluation that he planned to pursue a career in
internal medicine because of Dr. Chadaga's influence.
He remembers the moment he knew that he wanted to become a
doctor. It was during an exhibition put on by the local medical
school in his hometown of Mangalore, India. The exhibition took
place when Dr. Chadaga was in the ninth grade, and he remembers
that he was fascinated by the event and from that moment he knew
that he wanted to become a physician. "I couldn't sleep for a
couple of days after," he recalls.
As a child, Dr. Chadaga was mechanically-minded, interested in
science, and curious about how things worked. He would often
disassemble things but did not always put them back together, which
annoyed his mother. "I was not successful at putting them back
together, but I did try," he says, laughing.
Dr. Chadaga's eldest brother, Lakshminarayana, helped put him
through medical school at Kasturba Medical School in Mangalore,
India. He was Dr. Chadaga's biggest fan until his recent death.
After completing medical school, Dr. Chadaga came to the United
States, which he describes as a life-changing experience.
Initially, he thought that he wanted to go into pediatrics or
possibly pathology, but after completing an internship with
rotations in surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology, he questioned
whether he was cut out to be a clinical physician. Eventually, Dr.
Chadaga settled on internal medicine because he felt that
subspecialists are fragmented and focus only on their one part of
Today, he is an academic hospitalist at John Cochran Veterans
Medical Center in St. Louis, MO. He recently went to a part-time
schedule which allows him to work every other month, seeing
patients with his team of residents and medical students both from
Washington University and St. Louis University.
After morning rounds, Dr. Chadaga makes a point to go around to
each of his patients later in the day on his own. "It's remarkable
the way the patients open up to you, when earlier in the day they
were hesitant with five or six people towering over them," he
Dr. Chadaga has always had a strong desire to ask questions and
keep learning. If a patients' diagnosis is not resolved by the time
they were discharged, Dr. Chadaga will write down their name and
will look it up later to 'close the loop'. He says that he is
always curious, and he tries to instill that sense of curiosity in
As a mentor, Dr. Chadaga tries to make a difference in the way
his team treats patients. One observation that he has made about
medical students is that "they don't think outside the box." For
example, he reminds them that "there are 101 things that can cause
chest pain" and that each reason should be looked into thoroughly.
Internists treat the whole person, not just their symptoms and look
at every aspect of the situation, and as an internal medicine
physician Dr. Chadaga has a sense of professional satisfaction
because he is not only focusing on one aspect of the patient's
care. A lot of physician burnout is due to doctors not enjoying
medicine because they are busy calling attending physicians for
consults, writing notes, and seeing patients. Sometimes doctors
have no inclination to learn from their patients, he says. "There
is no patient that is not interesting, and it is up to you to make
them interesting. If you stop enjoying medicine, then you get burnt
Dr. Chadaga has been a member of ACP since he came to the U.S.
43 years ago, and was named a Fellow of ACP (FACP) in 1991. He
depends on the College to continue to help him learn. He finds the
"Updates in Internal Medicine" articles in Annals of Internal
Medicine to be insightful, and says that ACP keeps him current
with everything that is happening in medicine.
His favorite part of practicing medicine is the patient
interaction. Dr. Chadaga has been in the VA hospital setting for
his entire career. "It's a pleasure and a privilege to take care of
the veterans. Whenever a veteran tries to thank me, I make it a
point to tell them that they have truly earned it."
Dr. Smitha Chadaga: A Daughter Follows Her
Dr. Smitha Chadaga, the older of Dr. Rajagopal Chadaga's
children, loved to read so much that her mother used to have to
kick her out of her room and tell her to go outside and play. And
while her parents encouraged her to forge her own path in life, and
from age five, Dr. Chadaga knew she wanted to be a doctor.
Dr. Chadaga remembers her father talking about "doing rounds"
when she was a little girl. She envisioned a giant auditorium where
all of the patients would be in their hospital beds arranged in a
big circle. She wondered if her dad jumped over the beds or climbed
into the middle of the circle to examine the patients. When she
went to work with her dad, she was disappointed that the patients
stayed in their rooms during her dad's rounds, but she was thrilled
when the nurses gave her a stethoscope of her own during one of her
During her high school years, Dr. Chadaga volunteered at the
Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Marion, IL, where her
father worked. As a volunteer she moved patients via wheelchair to
the clinic or to get x-rays, and brought documents elsewhere in the
hospital. The volunteers she worked with were often veterans and
both working with and for veterans was a special honor.
After high school, she entered a six-year program BA/MD program.
When she joined medical school Dr. Chadaga imagined returning to
her hometown to be a family physician. But during her third year of
her schooling Dr. Chadaga took a questionnaire designed to help her
choose a specialty and path that would best suit her. The
questionnaire helped her realize that she wanted to be in an
academic setting, and that she wanted to care for adults and impact
them in a meaningful way. "I felt like internal medicine gave me
the best chance at doing that," she said.
While Dr. Chadaga was determined to make her own path as a
physician she drew inspiration from her father. "It was a huge
inspiration to me as a kid, watching my dad makes an impact on
people's lives," Dr. Chadaga said. "I still find inspiration in
him, as an adult, and as a physician, I'm always asking for his
advice about handling different things," she says, adding, "If I
can do half of what he's done, I will be somewhat successful as a
Today, Dr. Smitha Chadaga is an academic hospitalist in
Portland, OR. She makes rounds with residents about 60% of the time
and the other 40% of the time she does rounds by herself. Like her
father, Dr. Chadaga enjoys the patient interaction that comes with
the job. On average, she sees 12-15 patients each day. "I think the
advantage to being a hospitalist is that I get to take care of
these people through a set process and provide them with care, and
impact their life in what, I hope, is a meaningful way," she
She views medicine on an individual level and in a global sense.
Since there are a finite number of patients that she as an
individual physician can help, she relies of educating medical
students and residents to have a greater impact. Dr. Chadaga
believes that educating medical students and residents, and
impacting how they practice medicine, hopefully for the better, can
have an exponential impact on patient care. Educating students and
residents sustains her in a different way than patient contact.
In 1998, while in medical school, Dr. Chadaga became a member of
ACP. She found and continues to find value in her ACP membership
because it provides her with guidance on how to be a good learner
and a good professional. When Dr. Chadaga was in medical school and
completing her residency, there was a certain pathway set out for
her, but she said that when she was done with schooling, there was
no fixed pathway. ACP was a helpful guide for Dr. Chagada as she
navigated her career by helping expand her knowledge and providing
advice to her. She was named a Fellow of ACP (FACP) in 2013.
Medicine is an ever-evolving science, which Dr. Chadaga says
proves to be a challenge for her, but working at an academic
institution helps her provide her patients with evidence-based
care. The residents help her stay current on the latest medical
information. "While I'm teaching the residents, the residents are
teaching me," she says. "They're in a position to learn in a
Her advice for today's medical students who are choosing their
residency is to not just imagine the best-case scenario for their
desired career. She suggests that students "think about the most
challenging situation in that specialty, and imagine yourself doing
that every day. If you can say 'I'll be happy dealing with that
challenging situation every day', then it's the right specialty for
Dr. Amar Chadaga: A Son Also Walks in His Father's
Dr. Amar Chadaga is the younger of two children in the Chadaga
family. Growing up, he remembers that his parents made a point for
the family to eat dinner together each night. The conversations
around the dinner table included world news and events that took
place during the school day. He continues to enjoy talking and
debating politics and current events with his parents, who he
FaceTimes with every day.
When he was seven years old, his mother taped a notecard to his
bedroom door. In her beautiful cursive writing, she wrote "The 3
D's to success are desire, dedication and determination." That
notecard stayed on his bedroom door until he went to college, and
although he does not know what happened to the notecard, Dr.
Chadaga thinks about the 3 D's every day.
While his sister immediately knew that she wanted to study
medicine in college, Dr. Chadaga was undecided when he entered his
first year at the University of Illinois. His mother encouraged him
to keep an open mind when he went to college. He and his mother
developed a strong bond from very early in his life. Dr. Chadaga
was born with a cleft lip and palate and was not able to speak or
hear very well until age five. His mother would drive him around in
the car and would point to a stop sign and say "that's an octagon."
She continued to teach him even though he was slow to warm up to
learning, and he calls her his biggest fan.
His mother suggested that he study engineering in college, and
although he considered it, he knew that he wanted to interact more
with people in his job. Dr. Chadaga was involved with student
government and thought that he might want to become a lawyer but
kept going back to his desire to find out what was wrong with
people when they say "I'm not feeling well." Dr. Chadaga cannot
pinpoint whether that mentality was ingrained in him by his father
or his sister, but he says that his family has always been
charity-oriented and had a desire to help people.
Like his sister, he also volunteered during his high school
years at the hospital where his dad worked. Medicine became
especially appealing to Dr. Chadaga because "at the end of the day,
you can be social while helping people heal and learning
He studied medicine at Southern Illinois University School of
Medicine. It was during his second year of residency that he fell
in love with teaching. "You have to know the material so well to be
able to teach it, and I finally started figuring out the material
better," he said, noting that his year as an intern was tough for
During that same year in residency, he was a member of the
winning Doctor's Dilemma team from the ACP Illinois Northern
Chapter. The team participated in the competition at the Internal
Medicine Meeting in San Diego, and while the squad exited early in
national competition, he says that his first exposure to the ACP
Internal Medicine Meeting was a pivotal moment in his career. He
was named a Fellow of ACP (FACP) in 2013.
Today, he is an associate program director in the internal
medicine residency at the University Of Illinois College of
Medicine at Chicago Advocate Christ Medical Center Program. "I love
my job," he says. Roughly 50% of the time Dr. Chadaga is
administrative and didactic teaching while the rest of the time is
spent interacting with patients on the inpatient teaching service.
On non-clinical days, he moderates morning report, researches
various topics in graduate medical education, mentors students and
residents, and attends meetings related to the internal medicine
residency. He likes that the days vary and that he his schedule is
Dr. Chadaga is also in charge of recruitment. Each year he
conducts between 200 and 300 interviews to secure the upcoming
intern classes. In 2013, after this first full year of teaching at
Advocate Christ Medical Center, he was awarded the General Medicine
Teacher of the Year Award. The internal medicine residents vote on
who embodies the best internist in terms of evidence-based
medicine, patient care, and teaching.
He tells his students to pay close attention to detail and
strive to be the best. "You don't have to be the best," but Dr.
Chadaga asks that they bring their "A" game every single day.
Combining his love of teaching with patient care, Dr. Chadaga
created a boot camp program for new interns to help learn
essentials of inpatient medicine. It received positive feedback
both before and after program took place.
Avoiding physician burnout is a challenge that Dr. Chadaga is
working to overcome. Caring for inpatient patients can be busy and
finding a work-life balance can be tricky. In order to combat
physician burnout, Dr. Chadaga serves on a physician wellness
committee at the hospital with colleagues from various departments.
"Because there is always work to do and always ways to improve, you
could stay at work all day, in any job," he says, adding that it is
a little harder in medicine because the clock does not stop at 5
Dr. Chadaga is also interested in researching bullying in
hospital settings, in particular amongst residents and fellows. He
says that bullying is the big elephant in the room that no one
wants to talk about and that at times the hospital can be toxic and
Dr. Chadaga says that his father has had a profound effect on
his career. He describes his dad as calm and cool under pressure.
His father's approach to medicine is second nature, which he
compares to Michael Jordan playing basketball. "If I could
literally be half of the physician that he is, then I think I'd be
an amazing physician." Dr. Chadaga adds that his father has a
strong work ethic and that "his fire hasn't gone down at all. I
definitely want to emulate him."
September 2015 Issue of IMpact
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