BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Dr. Ramanathan Raju is president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, the nation’s largest publicly owned, integrated health care delivery system. This physician and physician executive is not just committed to the health and well-being of others, but to maintaining his Indian culture in his American life.
“It fills my heart with pride when I consider what people of Indian origin have contributed to the economic and social growth of the United States over the past three generations,” Raju told the Queens Tribune. “One aspect of Indian culture that I believe we contribute to the American experience is our commitment to volunteerism and altruism. I learned many lessons from my father, who was an economist and a campaigner for Indian independence. He was committed to extending a helping hand to people in trouble, and to doing whatever possible to uplift people who had fallen through the cracks of the social system. He earned the disapproval of many colleagues by inviting members of the untouchable caste to dine with us at our home.”
Raju is originally from Chennai, which is located in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. He received his master’s degree in Surgery from Madras Medical College and then went to England, where he spent three and a half years earning a fellowship from the Royal College of Surgery.
“I appreciated the lessons I learned in the United Kingdom, especially its championing of the National Health Service – where they take care of everybody – so part of the roots of what I do here in New York, leading a safety net system committed to caring for all New Yorkers, really originated in England,” said Raju. “Nevertheless, after my studies in the UK concluded, I was excited by the opportunity to relocate to America.”
Raju’s first stop in the United States was Brooklyn, where he entered a medical residency program as a surgical fellow at Lutheran Medical Center. Not long after, Raju became a chief resident, and then a fellow in vascular surgery, making his way up to becoming a trauma surgeon, and then director of General Surgery and head of Trauma, which led him to opening a private practice in Brooklyn.
Although Raju spent over 20 years practicing vascular and trauma surgery, he chose to leave the practice to start a new career as a physician CEO.
“Nearly 20 years ago I read an Institute of Medicine report called ‘Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care,’” said Raju. “It showed that racial and ethnic minorities here in the USA are less likely to receive even routine medical procedures and experience a lower quality of health services. The study opened my eyes to the lack of equity in health care that simply shouldn’t exist in the world’s richest and most powerful nation. I felt that I could help more people, even whole communities if I worked as a health care executive to improve culturally responsive care and to build far greater access to our delivery system. So I dedicated myself to that work, and remain dedicated to it today.”
Raju had not begun to spend time in Queens until later in his career when he became chief medical officer for the city’s public hospital system.
“It was during this period that I came to more fully appreciate the tremendous diversity of your borough, which has been called one of the most diverse places on Earth,” said Raju. “At NYC Health + Hospitals we often say that ‘we look like our patients and they look like us.’ The underpinning of our incredibly strong connection to the communities we serve is the diversity of our workforce. And so we particularly appreciate Queens. And we are proud to serve it with two acute-care hospitals, NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens and NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst.”
In 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Raju to lead the 42,000 employees of the NYC health care system who provide essential services to 1.2 million New Yorkers every year across the city’s five boroughs.
“We have only two types of employees at NYC Health + Hospitals: deeply committed caregivers, people like our doctors and nurses and clinicians who actually touch our patients; and everybody else, everyone from our environmental staff to our food services staff to our dedicated hospital police, to myself and the rest of our leadership team, all of whom are committed to supporting those who provide direct care,” said Raju.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org