Finding a familiar fit
For two generations of Ravindras (so far), VCU runs in the family
By Cynthia McMullen
If P.V. “Ravi” Ravindra, M.D. (H.S.’96/M; F.S.’99/M), hadn’t been so taken by his prospective bride during their initial 15-minute meeting, it’s unlikely he would have become a VCU alumnus.
After earning his medical degree at Kempegowda Institute of Medical Sciences in Bangalore, India, Ravindra was perfectly happy beginning his career in his native India. But fate, in the form of an arranged marriage to a young Indian woman who had grown up in the U.S., intervened.
Thirty years later, Ravindra says, “I could not have found a better half for me!” But marriage changed everything.
At the time, his new bride, Geetha, was a law student living in North Carolina. Ravindra secured a research fellowship at Duke University, where he would work in the cardiac surgery and trauma research lab, and made the nearly 9,000-mile move.
“I was always amazed how someone could be revived from cardiac arrest and walk out of the hospital a few days later, or a person with a barely functioning heart could be helped to lead a normal life,” he says. “I felt cardiology could provide me with the skill sets to help provide patients with a new life.”
About a month after her new husband arrived in the States, Geetha suggested visiting other parts of the country. Driving north on Interstate 95, Ravindra recalls, “I saw this big hospital and said, ‘That looks nice!’” He didn’t know he was admiring VCU Medical Center until a friend from Richmond, Virginia, filled him in.
Within a couple of years — and although Geetha had taken the North Carolina bar exam — Ravindra applied to VCU and was offered a residency. He persuaded Geetha to move to Richmond.
During interviews, he found that he liked the culture at VCU. “It was the best pick for me and my personality,” he says.
VCU also offered excellent training, he says. “Once I finished internal medicine, I could have gone anywhere for the cardiology fellowship. But I looked at other schools and said, ‘You know what, VCU has a pretty darned good program.’”
He also benefited from clinical mentors such as professor emeritus George Vetrovec, M.D. (H.S.’74/M; F.S.’76/M), and Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., chair of the Pauley Heart Center’s Division of Cardiology.
After his fellowship, Ravindra joined Richmond Cardiology Associates. He and his wife had started a family by then and, unbeknownst to them at the time, a family legacy, as well.
Their children, Ravindra notes, had the option to attend college wherever they chose. He thinks they opted for VCU at least in part because they knew how much he had enjoyed it.
Their father’s career choice also proved attractive. Both Lakshmi Ravindra, M.D. (B.S.’16/H&S; M.D.’20/M), and her brother, Krishna Ravindra (B.S.’19/H&S), majored in biology, participating in the Honors College and the Guaranteed Admission Program for Medicine.
“I went to day care on the MCV Campus, so I came full circle!” Lakshmi says. She has fond memories of her parents picking her up and taking her to Capitol Square for lunch.
As an undergraduate, she appreciated the flexibility of a program that allowed her to major in biology and minor in chemistry, Spanish and psychology.
As for medical school, she had heard from many people, not just her dad, that VCU offered great clinical training. That training prepared her well for residency, she says, despite the advent of COVID-19 during her final semester.
Although she’s a Richmonder at heart, Lakshmi says, it was time to try a new city. Last June, she packed for Brown University, where she is pursuing a three-year internal medicine residency. She hasn’t settled on a specialty but leans toward hematology/oncology.
Brother Krishna took a slightly more circuitous route. “I thought I was going to be a professional soccer player, like all little boys,” he says with a laugh. “I didn’t focus on anything else!”
Once he realized this was not to be, he thought orthopaedics might make for a nice balance. “If I couldn’t play, then I could work with athletes.” But a burgeoning interest in cardiology — inspired by shadowing physicians during high school and working as a scribe — was sealed when he participated in a VCU Honors College study-abroad program in Italy. The School of Medicine’s Antonio Abbate, M.D., Ph.D., the James C. Roberts Esq. Professor of Cardiology, led the program and awakened Krishna’s interest in clinical and translational science.
“I can wholeheartedly say choosing VCU was the best decision of my life. I don’t think I would have had half the opportunities [at other schools],” he says.
Krishna feels his School of Medicine Class of 2023 is lucky in some ways because he and his classmates had “a completely normal first year” before the COVID pandemic changed the world. “We had been in school long enough to meet our study groups, and we had learned how to learn.”
Richmond will always be home, Krishna says. But, like his sister, he’s thinking of pursuing advanced training elsewhere.
“We’re so proud,” their father says. “I still think this is one of the noblest professions. You literally hold someone’s life in your hands.”
Geetha Ravindra joins him in approving of and supporting their children’s choices. When Lakshmi and Krishna were undergraduates and she was mediator for the International Monetary Fund, Geetha took time to serve on the Honors College board and as a student mentor.
It isn’t every day you can trace a three-decade legacy to a 15-minute meeting and a road trip.
– Cynthia McMullen (M.A.’89/H&S) is a contributing writer for the alumni magazine.