The self-proclaimed ‘dude’ geeks out on Star Wars when he’s not keeping up on cutting- edge health research
It’s not unusual for Chasing the Cure’s Dr. Raj Dasgupta to pepper his sentences with “dude,” “hey, man” or “cool.” The California doctor may be laid back but he’s also quadruple-board certified in Internal Medicine, Sleep Medicine, Critical Care and Pulmonary (i.e. lungs). When Dr. Raj isn’t dropping his health knowledge or solving medical mysteries on Chasing the Cure, the Los Angeles-based physician is the Assistant Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency at USC, a world-traveling teacher and author of the book “Medicine Morning Report: Beyond the Pearls,” which is the first in a series published by Elsevier.
The self-proclaimed ‘dude’ recently caught up with us to share more about his life, his passion for medicine and why both Star Wars and dogs make him cry.
Tell us more about your background and where you grew up.
My story is that I'm a cultural melting pot. My dad is Indian, and my mom is Filipino and I was born in Canada (with people from around the world already loving me!). I moved to the States when I was around three or four years old and ended up going to college in Southern California, and studying medicine in Michigan and New York.
What does solving medical mysteries look like in your own practice?
It’s never just me. Have I helped solve medical issues that involved other amazing nurses, doctors and pharmacists? The answer is yes. Every day in the medical ICU, we do our rounds. We see a patient who comes in. And most of my patients, they're on the ventilator so they can't talk. So I have to talk to their family, if they have families, and we take the data. And I'm with my team, which includes amazing fellows, residents, medical students, a pharmacist, a nutritionist, a respiratory therapist and we all sit together. We debate the case together and sometimes we do it — we score a home run.
What do you like to do outside of your work as a doctor?
My passion is medicine, and when I am by myself I am literally learning more medicine because I'm very humbled that you can never know everything. You will find me in Panera reading the New England Journal of Medicine or coming up with questions or answering questions — or trying to raise awareness around medical issues like orphan diseases or things like narcolepsy, sarcoidosis or Tourette’s Syndrome.
You must have some hobbies?
My secret guilty pleasure is that I love Star Wars. I collect all the old toys from the 1970s and 80s. And any time there's a new Star Wars movie coming out I can't wait for it.
What do you think about Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge, the new part of the park that’s devoted to Star Wars?
I haven’t been to it yet but my little girl and I went to Disneyland a couple months ago for a birthday, and Space Mountain is now called Hyper Space Mountain and it’s fully Star Wars with the music and everything. I almost started tearing up. It was just so fun.
Do you have any favorite music?
That’s a no-brainer. The Beatles, man. I love the Beatles more than anything. My second favorite band of all time is Rush. There's only three of them in the band and they are so talented that you’ve just got to love their music more than anything.
You have a family with two kids and one on the way, do you also have pets?
I’m a huge dog person — beyond life. I have two dogs. One is a Yorkipoo, his name is Ringo. And the other one we have is a Golden Doodle and his name is Clifford. If you want to make me emotional just turn on the movie Marley & Me.
Is there anyone you look up to who has inspired you in your work as a doctor?
I love Michael Jordan. I love how he led a team and, when necessary, put the team on his shoulders and made sure that they could be the best team possible. He was never afraid to put himself out there for criticism. And I love this one specific quote from him: “I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
I think that just means so much to me because it's only when you do fail that you become stronger, and you learn more. And I tell that to everyone, all my med students, all my residents: You've got to fail if you want to be the best.
Sophia Kercher is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the editorial director of Chasing the Cure. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Women’s Health and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.