Kavitha Ranganathan, M.D., Inspired by the Mission of Shriners Children's
Dr. Ranganathan’s father inspired her to pursue a career in medicine. “My dad was a physician and I saw the impact that he had on his patients,” she noted. Dr. Ranganathan was so sure she wanted a career in medicine that she entered a seven-year program right out of high school, attending college and medical school at the same time. “I was fully committed from the beginning,” she said.
Her interest in craniofacial surgery developed by watching her uncle, who is a cleft surgeon. “We visited my uncle in India every year and I shadowed him when I was a medical student. I saw the gratification of what it means to fix a child’s cleft lip or cleft palate and that is how I became passionate about craniofacial surgery and plastic surgery,” Dr. Ranganathan said.
Working at Shriners Children’s “was a dream of mine,” Dr. Ranganathan said. The mission of caring for a child regardless of a family’s ability to pay or insurance status resonates with her. “I love the mission of the healthcare system. The value of the care provided and the unconditional nature of that care is so inspiring. Shriners for me really epitomizes what I always wanted to be doing in healthcare,” she said.
As a craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Ranganathan pointed out that care routinely extends beyond the initial cleft lip or palate repair. She explained that many patients have needs throughout their childhood, particularly during adolescence. “As surgeons, it is important that we understand the needs of our patients, not just in infancy but as they grow into adulthood.”
In addition to the bonds she is developing with patient families, Dr. Ranganathan describes working with the Shriners Children’s Boston staff as a highlight of her day. “It is the best feeling to come to work and know that everyone feels so much personal investment in the mission. The environment that the staff creates is truly exceptional and I think they really make Shriners what it is.”
While Dr. Ranganathan specializes in craniofacial surgery, she also practices general reconstructive plastic surgery. Her clinical interests include reconstructive surgery for congenital anomalies, trauma and burn wounds. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and did her residency at the University of Michigan Medical School. Her post-doctoral training in plastic and reconstructive surgery was also at the University of Michigan. She went on to complete a craniofacial fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Ranganathan is an assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and director of craniofacial reconstruction at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In addition to clinical care, Dr. Ranganathan is committed to her research, which focuses on increasing access to care where medical resources are limited, as well as for those suffering catastrophic expenditures due to an injury or diagnosis.
“I am currently studying the incidence of financial toxicity and food insecurity in adult surgical patients. We found that approximately 30% of patients cannot afford necessities after healthcare because healthcare is so expensive. Our research shows that too many patients experience food insecurity after surgery,” she said.
The name of Dr. Ranganathan’s research lab, “Surgeons against Poverty,” reflects its focus. She and her research colleagues are designing and testing evidence-based interventions for patients experiencing financial hardship and food insecurity. Domestic and international patients are included in this initiative.
When asked what families should know about Shriners Children’s Boston, she shared this message: “I would like families to know that the care we provide is exceptional, not just from a surgical standpoint, but also from a comprehensive multidisciplinary standpoint.”
When she is not seeing patients or conducting research, Dr. Ranganathan enjoys spending time with her 4-year-old daughter and her husband – who also has a career in medicine. She also loves to read. “I’m always reading a book of some sort; that’s really where my quiet time comes from,” she said.
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