Match Day 2023: Priya Raju Fulfilling a Lifelong Purpose at UNC
When Priya Raju, Class of ’22, opened her Match Day email to see the Child Neurology Residency Program at the University of North Carolina, it fulfilled a dream that began before she was even born.
As she eagerly awaited the news that she would match to her top choice, Priya Raju’s twin sister stood nearby knowing the exact feelings and energy that came with anticipating Match Day’s arrival. She and her husband are both first-year residents, so it was only one year prior that they were in Raju’s same position awaiting what and where the next chapter brings. As such, they lent a hand in ensuring Raju had a one-of-a-kind experience to learn she would match at her top choice— Child Neurology Residency Program at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill.
“They came home on Thursday night before Match Day and set up this whole area for photos and we all waited for the email to come in together,” Raju recalled of the Friday morning celebration. “My brother-in-law saw it first and printed out the email because opening an envelope was more exciting than an email, but I knew the look on his face meant it was UNC.”
A Lifelong Purpose
For Raju, a career in child neurology fulfills a lifelong purpose that began the moment she was born. She and her sister were born prematurely with complications, which led them to spending much of their early years visiting a rotation of pediatricians, child neurologists, and child development specialists up until the twins were in elementary school. Through those years, a foundation was built for Raju to come to appreciate the medical work required to bring her and her sister to full health along with the personal connections made with all the doctors involved.
“They all had done so much for my family, so I always wanted to go to medical school to do pediatrics,” said Raju.
Considering medical school was a departure from the familial norm for Raju, who comes from a family of engineers and initially started in that field herself with her undergraduate degree in Biological Engineering from Purdue University. During an internship, she had made connections back to the medical field through opportunities to work with scoliosis patients and the medical devices and spinal implants they use. This was one of her first exposures to the work neurosurgeons do for patients. Seeing their unique approaches to patient care and what encompasses their day-to-day work inspired her to apply to medical school.
“I love working with both the child and parent to see the impact that I can have on both of their lives.”
Though pediatrics was initially the goal, Raju came to American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) with an open mind willing to explore other opportunities. She found her fourth semester neuroscience course engaging and felt a natural excitement when she would work on coursework. While she was completing most of her clinical rotations in New York, she took a child neurology rotation in Miami, Florida, and continued to reinforce the field as her specialty that once played a pivotal role in helping her and her family.
“I am most excited about diving even further than I already have into this field,” said Raju. “There is such a strong necessity for child neurologists in the country, and I feel very blessed to contribute to that need. I'm also excited to just be able to think independently for patients and be such a big part of a well-known program collaborating with so many people from different backgrounds that give back to the community in North Carolina.”
AUC Is Family
After she finished her rotations in New York, Raju moved back home to Virginia to await Match Day’s arrival. She had her mom by her side when the first email arrived on Monday of Match Week congratulating her for matching, and she proceeded to run down the street searching for her dad who had just taken the family dog outside. Her twin, lifelong companion, and now fellow resident arrived the night before. As she reflected on the week that was the start of a new chapter, one part missing was getting to celebrate with the family she made at AUC.
“The people of AUC and Sint Maarten made a world of a difference in helping confirm it was always the right choice for medical school,” said Raju. “Everyone from the very beginning of two alumni that helped me with my enrollment application all the way to my residency applications were all so helpful and to this day they have been such a big part of my life. I love the school and everything Sint Maarten has to offer, and I made some of my best friends at AUC. If you need a reason to go there, I'm happy to give you 100.”
Start your own journey to Match Day at AUC here.