Doctor Merges Medicine, Research and Music
One in an ongoing series
Janani Rangaswami was at a crossroads: which of the two loves of her life would she pursue? Music? Or medicine?
She was in medical school in India and simultaneously vocal training under an internationally celebrated South Indian classical musician, Lalgudi Jayaraman. “I was either singing or studying in those formative years,” she says. Her parents had moved to South India from New Delhi so she could pursue the rare opportunity of becoming Jayaraman’s student when she started high school.
If she remained in India after medical school, Dr. Rangaswami could be a physician and perform music locally too. But her advisors told her there were many more opportunities in medicine if she came to the United States.
Dr. Rangaswami made her decision. She came to Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia as a resident in nephrology in 2004 and – except for the years she attended Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York as a nephrology fellow – she never left.
She’s now Associate Chair of Research for Einstein’s Department of Medicine, clinical associate professor at Jefferson University, and a practicing clinical nephrologist with Kidney Care Specialists,
Long List of Achievements
The accomplishments listed on Dr. Rangaswami’s 35-page CV speak to the wisdom of her choice. She’s won “best of” and other awards as a student, a resident and an educator.
She has been the lead editor of two medical textbooks in cardiorenal medicine and has written numerous book chapters and scores of research papers. She is the current vice chair of the Kidney Council of the American Heart Association and co-chair of the cardiovascular disease working group of the American Society of Transplantation, among her other leadership roles in professional organizations.
As an emerging national leader in the field of cardiorenal medicine, Dr. Rangaswami most recently was co-author of an influential Scientific Statement for the American Heart Association that could advance the treatment of patients with Type 2 diabetes.
Cardiorenal medicine focuses on the interconnection of heart and kidney disease and promotes an interdisciplinary approach to these two diseases, which commonly co-occur with diabetes.
“The interest in this specialty is relatively new because we’ve begun to realize the burden of these two diseases coming together in the same patient,” she says, “which adds not just to a poor outcome but creates a lot of economic strain on our healthcare system.”
Music and the Pandemic
Dr. Rangaswami’s successful career hasn’t lessened her love for music. And thanks to circumstances – including, oddly enough, the pandemic – it is once again part of her life.
For one thing, her parents emigrated to the United States not long after she did, and her father, Chakravarthy Rangaswami, an engineer and musician, is teaching her 11-year-old son, Aniruddh (Rudy), how to play the South Indian classical drums, mridangam.
For another thing, the COVID 19 outbreak has inspired and normalized remote communication, including virtual musical performances. “The silver lining in the pandemic means you don’t have to be in a place to contribute with your skill set – even in classical music, you’re able to have concerts with a large audience,” she says.
Dr. Rangaswami recently participated in a virtual concert to mark the 90th birthday of her mentor and teacher. “This year, I was able to reconnect with my music circles,” she says. “I’ve actually been able to virtually pick up and reconnect like nothing ever happened.”
Dr. Rangaswami is the third generation of academics and physicians on her mother’s side, and the third generation of performing classical musicians on her father’s side of the family. Music is integral not only to her life, she says, but to her career.
“Music is a huge emotional healer, and in pandemic times there’s a lot of room to use art as a form of healing,” she says, adding that “a lot of our devices and pills can only do so much and the emotional part is really huge. I truly believe pursuing an art as a physician helps one understand and connect with patients in a deeper dimension”
As it turned out, then, Dr. Rangaswami didn’t have to decide between science and art. She has her medicine and her music.
“I’m so happy I made the choice at the time I did,” she says. “The Einstein network has been so supportive. Our medical leadership has helped me in every possible way to showcase my professional talent in its current form.”