Dr. Vadakkipalayam Devarajan, affectionately known as Dr. Raj to his patients and colleagues, hung up his white coat this month after serving the St. Charles Parish community for over four decades.
“When somebody lives – maybe some people, maybe more people – have a memory of you,” he said. “I only wish that I’ve been good to leave some good memories … that’s my wish.”
Dr. Raj was born in India and moved to the New Orleans area in 1976 to attend Tulane University. He moved to St. Charles Parish a couple years later.
“I raised my family here and have been working here from 1978 to now,” he said. “I came here and I’m glad I did. The community has been such a warm, supportive community … just so gracious.”
After working in different capacities and networks, Dr. Raj has spent the last decade of his career working as an Access Health Louisiana nephrologist helping patients with dialysis options, kidney stones treatment and chronic kidney disease and failure.
The 76-year-old doctor said retirement was more of his family’s idea.
“They want me to smell the roses and I’m going to respect their wishes,” he said. “I had open heart surgery two years ago and took some time off then. But my wife wants to move to Florida to be closer to our daughter and grandchildren. I have to support the person who has supported me for so many years. If left to myself I would work for another five years, but I’m going to enjoy some time with the grandchildren.”
And even though he feels not quite ready to retire, Dr. Raj acknowledges how demanding his job as a physician has been.
“Being a doctor is challenging … I mean being a human being is challenging enough,” he said laughing. “But the challenges make life meaningful, right? I will never forget St. Charles Parish … that’ll be always in my memory.”
Future plans include writing a book about his experiences in the medical profession.
“It’s not just a science … it’s an art,” he said of his chosen career. “I’ve already had some things published, so I’ve had a taste of that.”
Besides his medical expertise, Dr. Raj gave back to the St. Charles Parish community in other ways during his time here. After Hurricane Katrina he produced a comical play that he presented free of charge to the local community.
“Besides medical studies, in high school and college I was always interested in drama,” he said. “I have done many of them in my younger days and in the 1980s and 1990s in Metairie. I stopped that for a while but in 2005 coming back from Hurricane Katrina there was just so much destruction and depression … everywhere you turned you just saw people who were unhappy and I thought, ‘Why don’t I do something to cheer up my community?’”
He presented the play to a standing-room only crowd in Luling.
“It was like 400 people,” he said. “It poured all day, but was so fun. I think people really enjoyed it. Life should be fun too.”
Claire Landry and her husband have been patients of Dr. Raj for years, and she said she’ll never forget the play.
“He’s been such a blessing to the community”, she said. “I cried when I received his letter of retirement.”
Landry said one of her favorite things about Dr. Raj is his sense of humor.
“After my husband Brian and I retired we began making our doctor appointments on the same day and same time and Dr. Raj would walk in the room and call us the ‘love birds’ every time he saw us,” she said, adding that during football season the doctor knew he could talk about the game with the couple. “Saints fans love Saints fans. Some visits I’d notice took longer because we all had so much to say, so sorry to whoever who was in the next room waiting. Dr. Raj loved to travel and always encouraged us to see the world. About six years ago I began making our appointments for the last two appointments of the day so there were no time constraints to discuss the important things like football and travel.”
AHLS President and CEO Mark Keiser said he has had the privilege of knowing Dr. Raj for almost 40 years.
“He has made a tremendous impact on thousands of lives,” Keiser said. “He will be missed, and we wish him well in his retirement.”
Keiser said Dr. Raj may occasionally fill in during vacation periods for other AHL doctors throughout AHL service sites, which means he may occasionally be back in Luling.
“He plans on making himself available to consult with his colleagues on the continuing care for the folks he is currently serving, which is great news,” Keiser said. “Dr. Raj has always enjoyed teaching and will continue to be a resource to younger practitioners and ancillary employees of Access Health. So, from those of us here at Access Health, we’re not saying ‘goodbye’ to Dr. Raj … more like ‘see you soon.’ And that’s reassuring to all of us, and we hope to you also.”
Dr. Raj said that he will look back fondly back at his time serving patients.
“I am very happy,” he said. “I was able to help the community and to live a life of service. I think I have accomplished that. I am satisfied with what I have done with my life.”