This month we catch up with Rajkaran Sachdej, a St. John’s ‘lifer’ whose passion for bettering the lives of people and the desire to be a lifelong learner has inspired him to pursue the path of psychiatric medicine.
What did you do the year following High School graduation?
I took a leap of faith and moved to The Big Apple to start my undergraduate degree from Columbia University. There, I became immersed in Columbia’s “Core” curriculum and joined a number of student groups that would define my college experience. I graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in both Neuroscience and Behavior and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies.
Can you tell us about the career path you chose after college?
In all honesty, it took some time for me to become comfortable with my career path into psychiatric medicine. On one hand, I enjoyed the pathology and hard science involved in medicine. On the other hand, I enjoyed learning about the fine arts and anthropology.
Psychiatry is a field of medicine in which I find an appropriate balance between these two interests. More importantly, I believe that mental health, if addressed appropriately, can truly change peoples’ lives for the better. Though difficult at times, my line of work is rewarding.
Outside of work, what other activities/organizations are you involved in?
In the past, I had been very involved with one of my college dance teams. Entering college, I would have never imagined that my involvement with this team would be such a defining experience for me. It was exceedingly fun, a means for me to “connect to my roots”, and a great creative outlet. However, it was highly useful for building my leadership and communication skills, teamwork ethic, and strengthening my discipline.
What will you enjoy most about your career position?
I will be starting my psychiatry residency in July so I cannot give an exact opinion about that position, but I can say that my interest in psychiatry is multifold. For one, the pathology is amazing and I am guaranteed to never have a boring day at work. There’s nothing quite like working with a psychotic or manic patient! Secondly, psychiatry exposes me to so many academic fields outside of medicine (e.g. law, ethics, history, anthropology, etc.) and satisfies my desire to be a lifelong learner. Yet, the beauty of psychiatry is how it can truly change peoples’ lives for the better and allow others the mental bandwidth to harness their full potential.
How did you become interested in your field of study or work?
My first exposure to the field was during my freshman year of college when I learned about the latest neuroimaging research linking neurotransmitters to human cognition. I decided to follow this interest and majored in Neuroscience and Behavior, which gave me the opportunity to take classes like “Drugs and Behavior” and “Experimental Social Cognition and Emotion”. A summer internship at Guam’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse only added to this interest. It was not until medical school when I really got to work with patients to see the benefits of psychiatric medicine for myself to solidify this interest as a career path.
How has attending St. John’s prepared you for success in college and the workplace?
I was thankful St. John’s prepared me for the rigor of a large academic research institution in a supportive, family atmosphere. The closely-knit, diverse community truly gave me a valued perspective out in the mainland.
Do you still keep in touch with your St. John’s School friends?
Yes! Though I would like to catch up with more classmates, it’s always nice bumping into familiar faces during my travels around the states, the Narita airport, or the airport baggage claim on Guam.
Do you have a favorite teacher, mentor or counselor?
It’s hard to choose a few things from 14 years at St. John’s. From “little school”, I remember the status upgrade from the “Little Toy” to the “Big Toy” and playing the infamous “Ground Monster” game during recess. During “middle school” I fondly recall the opening of the new Snack Shack and our bake sales with the unique combo of kimbap and Winchell’s donuts. High school was speckled with great memories like initiation week, car washes, winning Songfest, and doing everything in our power to earn lunchtime off-campus privileges. And of course no one can forget Ms. Johnson’s charm!
What would you say to a prospective family who is considering St. John’s School?
St. John’s has a diverse community that fosters academic performance well- suited for universities in the mainland. The AP and IB curricula place your child amongst other international high schools.
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