Nishant Raj, MD, a surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive and laparoscopic surgical procedures as well as emergency/acute care surgery.
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What happened in the course of schooling to influence you to choose your specialty?
I always wanted to be a doctor. Growing up I was surrounded by a lot of friends whose parents were physicians and that also inspired me. In fact, when I was in third grade, the only thing I wanted to be for Halloween was a surgeon. My parents still have the photo of me in my surgeon costume.
During medical school, I quickly realized I liked working with my hands. I liked seeing the immediate impact that the surgeon had on his or her patient. I was drawn towards general surgery, acute care and trauma.
Looking back on that Halloween photo, it is very satisfying that I pursued my dreams and achieved my goal of becoming a surgeon.
What brought you to Washington University?
After finishing my undergraduate, medical school and residency years, I was drawn to come back to St. Louis, because my parents still live here. Looking at different opportunities, I eventually came to be a part of this Washington University physician surgery group at Christian Hospital. The Washington University resources are tremendous and gave me the opportunity to expand my outreach with minimally invasive surgery.
Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?
I have tailored my practice towards minimally invasive surgery – whether laparoscopically or using the da Vinci robotic surgical assisted system. Minimally invasive surgery minimizes the “footprint” on a patient and has tremendous benefits in the long-run. There is less pain and usually a shorter recovery period. It is the future of surgery.
I also do acute care in my practice -- emergency/acute care surgery definitely increases everyone’s adrenaline and can be extremely gratifying when everything goes well for the patient.
One thing that sets our practice here at Christian Hospital apart it that as a surgeon, I am directly involved in your care from your initial clinical visit, to your surgical procedure and finally to your post-operative care.
Are there new developments in your field?
Social media is helping to advance the field of minimally invasive surgery. As physicians and surgeons we are able to share the pros and cons of different procedures. That has led us to push the envelope and see what else we can do with minimally invasive surgery.
Within the next couple of years, companies will come out with a robotic platform that is more ergonomic for the surgeon, as well as more beneficial to the patient. Easier and better for the patient and the surgeon -- that is the wave of the future.
Where are you from?
I was born in India, but I call St. Louis my home. My family moved to the United States when I was eight years old. We initially moved to Wisconsin and lived there for five years before coming to St. Louis. My father is a professor at Concordia Seminary, but is retiring this year.
The usual St. Louis question I get is “Where did you go to high school?” I went to Clayton High School, Class of 2000. Go Greyhounds…
My wife is from Lower Michigan and I dragged her here after we got married. After seven years, she now considers St. Louis her home as well.
Which particular award or achievement is most gratifying?
This might sound corny, but my most satisfying achievements are 1) meeting my wife and 2) having children -- we have two little girls.
Initially, when I found out I was going to be the father of not one girl, but two girls, I was scared because I am one of three boys. But having the girls has changed my life. It gives you a whole new perspective. You no longer live for yourself, but for somebody else. It is definitely the most gratifying experience ever.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
My parents have always told us (my brothers and me) to be humble and modest. That advice has been echoed all of my life and keeps me grounded during the highs and lows of this profession.
Because my parents instilled humbleness and modesty in me, it helps me understand that there is more to life than just me. That is probably the most meaningful advice I’ve received.
If you weren’t a doctor, what would you like to be doing?
If I wasn’t a doctor, I would either own my own landscaping company or be a gardener. I like to work outside with plants, flowers and trees.
I really think it stems from the fact that I was very close to my mom growing up. She stayed home with us and we would all help her garden.
That is the reason it is now my hobby and something I enjoy doing with my daughters.