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Interview with Divya Jayaraman

Where are you from? 

Ah, such an interesting question that I have more trouble answering than I should. In some sense, I could say I'm from Boston as I've lived longer in the Boston/Cambridge area than any other place on earth. But like most Indian- or Asian-Americans, or brown people in general, I sense that this is not an answer that people are expecting to hear when they ask the question. Before Boston, I went to high school in Connecticut, but my parents have since moved away, so I have had few opportunities to go back and visit recently. Before that, I lived in Bombay (now Mumbai), India for about 11 years - formative years of my schooling and childhood, and I have many fond memories. Before that, I was a toddler with my parents in Sydney, Australia, speaking in a hybrid Indian/Australian accent. Before that, I was an infant in Bombay again. I was actually born in Madras (now Chennai), where my grandparents lived while they were still alive, where much of my extended family lives, and where I usually spend most of my time when I "go back to visit India." But I never lived there, and am not fluent in the local language. 

So, it's a complicated question. I'm an American citizen of Indian origin, a third culture kid, from everywhere and nowhere. My real tribe, the people I identify with most, are people who are similarly third culture kids, regardless of origin or where they've settled. I identify with military brats, with the kids of diplomats, or really any other people who have moved around and traveled a lot as children.


What field of work are you in?

Medicine. Being a resident during a pandemic has tested and stretched me in ways that I never imagined possible. It has made me realize just how short life is, and how precious your friends and family are. All I will say is - this is real, this is not a disease you or any of your family want to get, so do whatever you can to avoid getting it. Please - for all our sakes - don't call us heroes, but do wear masks, get the vaccine when you are eligible, socially distance, avoid large crowds/gatherings (especially indoors). Your life is nothing without your health. 


What do you love about the work you do?

Being there for people at some of the scariest, most intimate moments of their lives, being able to break it down and translate the 'medical-ese' into English, and some of the long-term human relationships that form, especially in the outpatient setting. 


What’s the most challenging part of your work?

The larger systems issues - very often beyond our ability to influence or control - that prevent patients from getting the care they need. Being the face they see and bearing the brunt of their anger when they cannot access care. Knowing sadly that even when care is accessed, our very best efforts might still be futile in some cases. Sharing the bad news with a family. Losing a patient. Still hurts. 


Number 1 accomplishment this year? 

Applying for and getting a research grant! 


If you could give your 2020 self a piece of advice, what would it be? 

A dear teacher of mine from high school, who is sadly no more, would say to me: "This, too, shall pass." I would tell my 2020 self the same thing. That and - "Work will always be there, but don't take your family and your health for granted." 


How can our community get involved (resources, donating, reading, etc..) 

1) World Central Kitchen - 

2) TKAMI (Talk to Kids About Mental Illness - - one of my college friends who is a child psychiatrist published a book with her brother about how to talk with children about mental health and illness.


Favorite way to unwind after a long day? 

Curl with up a hot cup of tea and nice book - usually nothing to do with medicine/work. Listen to music or a podcast. Watch a food or travel documentary on Netflix with my husband. Sleep.