University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Raj Thakrar '16: Life as a Medical Student and UVM Trustee

Raj Thakrar, class of 2016
UVM Trustee Raj Thakrar’16 at the White Coat Ceremony in 2012. (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

Second-year medical student Raj Thakrar came to the College of Medicine after earning a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University, and a master’s degree in physiology and biophysics from Georgetown University. A native of Westford, Mass., Thakrar worked for a year in the lab of Robert Langer, Sc.D., at MIT’s Koch Institute before deciding that he wanted a career that combined clinical medicine as well as research. Just a few short months into his first year at the College of Medicine, he received a university-wide email soliciting applications for one of two student positions available on the UVM Board of Trustees. Thakrar went through the application and interview process, and was appointed as a student trustee in March of 2013. The editors of Vermont Medicine magazine met with Thakrar this month for a short interview about his experiences.

VM: Why did you apply to be a member of the UVM Board of Trustees?

RT: I had an extraordinary experience in the path that led me to UVM. I was fortunate enough to be involved with a research project with my mentor that was published during my second semester here. I was also awarded a scholarship. There were so many things that UVM gave to me that I felt like I wanted to give back in a capacity that affected the entire university, so this role was perfect. Also, I was very interested in seeing what happened behind the scenes, -- the business of the enterprise that is UVM. I saw it as a learning experience, and that was very exciting for me.  During college when I was at Hopkins, one of my roommates was a student trustee on that board, and he gave me some insight into the responsibilities of a board member. He was very excited to talk about the experience, and that motivated me to become involved.

VM: As one of two current students on the Board of Trustees, how do you find yourself contributing to the board’s work?

RT: I serve on two committees: The Educational Policies and Institutional Resources Committee, and the Audit Committee. The Educational Policies and Institutional Resources Committee – EPIR for short – deals with curriculum changes, student fees, tuition, scholarships, and financial aid, which are very important topics in higher education today. When it comes to these topics, the students, Dennis Mahoney and I, are often the ones who ask the most questions. What can we do to increase the overall attraction of this university to prospective applicants? What are they looking for? What’s going on in their heads? And we’re asked questions, like what were the differences I saw here at this university versus the other universities where I interviewed? These are all issues I like to talk about with other trustees. I think that’s where my perspective can be valuable.

VM: How will your service on the UVM Board of Trustees impact your future work as a physician?

RT: There are several changes going on with the Affordable Care Act in healthcare today, and institutions are figuring out how to adapt. I think serving on the Board of Trustees is a great way for me to learn to analyze whether or not certain businesses, certain hospitals, are going to be able to manage healthcare, patients, and education. Also, I’m hoping to go into academic medicine. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes, especially with topics like curriculum changes, gives me some experience before I’m at that stage where I might have to develop a curriculum. I’m also interested in business itself, though I don’t know yet whether or not I want to pursue an MBA . Next year I’ll be serving on the budget, finance, and investments committee, and I’m currently on the audit committee. It’s giving me a great perspective on the business side of things.