Rajan Wadhawan, MD, traces his roots to India, where living together as a large family is the norm. From birth through medical school and marriage, to when his daughter turned 6 years old, he lived with his parents under the same roof — a cultural tradition aimed at strengthening support for each other through the changing phases of life.
As an Indian American, Dr. Wadhawan identifies as one of 5.4 million South Asian Americans in the U.S. In his current role as senior executive officer for AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women, Dr. Wadhawan says he sees the vital role family plays as a strongly connected support system.
“For most of my life, I have lived with different generations of my family,” he said. “In the process, I have learned many important values that have stayed with me for life.”
Growing up, Dr. Wadhawan saw and experienced a hospital setting every day on the ground floor of the home where he lived with his parents in Amritsar, a medium-sized town in northwestern India of about 2 million people. While his father worked as a family medicine physician, his mother served as an obstetrics physician (OB-GYN).
“In the 1970s, my father and my mother owned a small, private family practice with four beds,” he said. “For them, going to work meant going downstairs because we lived on the floor right above it.”
Through the experiences of sharing a living space with his parents and seeing them deliver care up close, Dr. Wadhawan said he learned the values of being “on-call” and effectively integrating work and personal life. He referred to his parents as his top inspirational figures who made his pursuit of a physician career a natural choice.
“At a very young age, I saw my parents integrate work and personal life, while still living a wholesome life,” he said. “That's how I've continued to live throughout my career.”
“It's not just one culture or experience that makes us who we are, but rather the unique cultures and experiences we bring to AdventHealth’s collective mission and vision.”
After many years in his hometown, Dr. Wadhawan’s first exposure to a different culture was in Sydney, Australia, where he practiced neonatal medicine for a few years. Having now had an extensive career in the U.S., he says he has learned to appreciate the different cultures and nationalities that exist around the globe.
“When I was growing up in India, I hardly came across anybody who was unlike me. We ate the same food and spoke the same languages,” he said. “What I love about the U.S. is how much of a home it is to so many different cultures.”
In many ways, Dr. Wadhawan lives the values of this year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month theme of “Advancing Leaders Through Collaboration.” He says his appreciation for different cultures enhances his interactions with his patients and communities. He especially appreciates opportunities to hear the different opinions and unique perspectives others bring to the table.
“I've learned a lot through my interactions with other cultures,” he said. “When others feel engaged, a better decision is made because we each might have a different way of thinking about issues.”
In recognizing the significant value of culture and how it makes us collectively whole, Dr. Wadhawan said, “It's not just one culture or experience that makes us who we are, but rather the unique cultures and experiences we bring to AdventHealth’s collective mission and vision.” He says he always aims to enable an environment where team members make it easy to understand each other’s point of view.
His best career advice? “Never forget to see the other person’s point of view. It helps to understand that point of view in order to get to a solution.”