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Nandan Anavekar, M.B., B.Ch.: Humility oozes, karma flows

To describe Nandan Anavekar, M.B., B.Ch. (I ’06, CMR ’07, CV ’10, CVEC ’11), Division of Ischemic Heart Disease and Critical Care, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, as humble would be an understatement. He says his Teacher of the Year Award reflects the growth and potential of his learners more than anything else.

“The trainees’ comments (below) are extremely touching and give me an indescribable feeling. I pray I can keep earning their trust. If I can help them grow, that’s the most important thing.”

The son of a physician, Dr. Anavekar was advised by his father that you need to teach others what you have learned. “That’s been the thread through my life,” he says. “Sharing the knowledge you have makes you better. The more I teach, the better I become in myself. I thank my students for helping me grow in this role.”

“Sharing the knowledge you have makes you better. The more I teach, the better I become in myself. I thank my students for helping me grow in this role.”

Dr. Anavekar grew up and Melbourne, Australia, and went to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland for medical school with the intent of returning to Australia to train and practice.

“My professors said the U.S. would provide amazing opportunities in academic medicine. When I interviewed for residency programs, Mayo Clinic was the only one that took us on clinical rounds. I was amazed by the one-on-one relationship between physician and patient, the emphasis on the physical examination and the way physicians interacted with trainees.”

Having attended medical school in a more hierarchical environment in Europe, Dr. Anavekar says he was stunned by a top Mayo Clinic consultant knew his name in the early days of his training. “One morning, Dr. Robert Frye (CV ’62), had given a report to the interns and addressed me by name. This giant in cardiology knew the name of an intern he’d given one session to. Where I came from, a consultant would never know the name of a medical student or resident. The environment at Mayo is so friendly. Everyone is interested in more than what you were accomplishing. They are interested in who you are, your goals, your family, your culture. That’s what builds communities and how I want to be in a teacher role.”

“The environment at Mayo is so friendly. Everyone is interested in more than what you were accomplishing. They are interested in who you are, your goals, your family, your culture. That’s what builds communities and how I want to be in a teacher role.”

Dr. Anavekar says he’s rewarded by seeing the spark in the eyes of learners, their genuine thirst for knowledge and their excitement at the work in front of them. I get to be a facilitator on their journey of discovery — from struggling and lacking confidence to maturing into highly sought-after professionals. I joke with them that I may asking for a letter of recommendation from them one day.”

Dr. Anavekar counts his facilitators, or mentors, as Heidi Connolly, M.D. (I ’89, CV ’93), Jae Oh, M.D. (I ’82, CV ’85), Rick Nishimura, M.D. (I ’80, CV ’83), and Paul Julsrud, M.D. (OR ’76, RD ’79), and Krishnaswamy Chandrasekaran, M.D. (CV ’88).

“Dr. Julsrud is a father-like figure, and Dr. Chandrasekaran treated me like his own son. When I was a resident going through tumultuous times about where to train and how to navigate parts of m personal life, he was always there. He took me for walks around Mayowood with him and his dog. We talked about cardiology cases and he mentored me in research. We also talked about stuff and he helped me with decision-making. He was the consummate life coach for me, and I looked forward to our time together. I hope I’m developing some of those relationships with trainees.”

Dr. Anavekar says he believes in the karmic flow of cause and effect. “My son is 4. When I talk to a trainee, I see my son’s face and want to do the best for them. One day, whatever career path my son goes down, I have to have faith that his mentors will do the best by him. My trainees’ families have handed over that responsibility to me to look after them. If I expect others to do that for my son one day, I want to fulfill that for my trainees.”

“My trainees’ families have handed over that responsibility to me to look after them. If I expect others to do that for my son one day, I want to fulfill that for my trainees.”

In that vein, Dr. Anavekar keeps an eye on learners who are struggling. “They’re often the quietest and can be lost in a sea of learners,” he says. “I see their uniqueness and magnify it as their strength. I try to bring out the unique strengths of all learners.

“I learned from experience. I struggled a lot. In my first year of fellowship, I thought I’d made a mistake in my choice because I couldn’t grasp the concepts. I felt like everyone else was getting it and I wasn’t. My nature is more reserved, so I was quiet about my struggle. I bumped into Dr. Raul Espinosa (MED ’84, I ’87, CV ’90), who told me there’s something for everyone. He recommended I reach out my hand and ask for help. So I got more involved in asking questions. That was huge for me. And it made me more sensitive to developing a nonthreatening learning environment for my trainees. Once you develop that community environment, it’s easier to break down barriers. I came to realize that certain things came easier to me and some were more difficult, and that was the same with my fellow trainees. Some of my greatest teachers ended up being my classmates.”

“The more you give away knowledge, the more you end up with. This is what I was built for.”

Dr. Anavekar says he tries not to rest on his laurels. Rather, he tries to earn every day. “I can’t believe I received the Teacher of the Year award this year and am humbled by it. I keep it as a symbol that I need to earn my position every day. Learning is what makes us human. The more you give away knowledge, the more you end up with. This is what I was built for.”

 

Comments from trainees

  • “Dr. Anavekar embodies the title of doctor, which is derived from the Latin word docere, which means to teach. He takes this a step further and teaches not only medical knowledge through his words but also how to be selfless and a role model through his actions. It is with this foundation of teaching that he has affected the lives of so many.”
  • “Dr. Anavekar teaches at all levels of medicine, from medical students to residents, fellows, advanced fellows and even his peers. Despite his busy practice, he always finds time to meet with fellows to review complex cases, edit papers for publication, and provide life and career mentoring.”
  • “He asks fellows about their learning goals and careers. Fellows are most impressed by his humble demeanor, genuine passion for teaching and responsiveness. He is a true mentor, and we see him as the example physician and teacher that we strive to become.”

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