"Voices of Mayo" is a series that highlights Mayo staff and their stories, exploring their diverse backgrounds, the challenges they face, the opportunities they have been given, and their experiences at Mayo Clinic.
Komal Gangar, M.B.B.S., has traveled a long way to pursue her passion for medicine. Dr. Gangar is from Solapur, a midsize town in India, where she became a primary care physician. But her quest to learn more led her to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, which she calls the "mecca of medicine."
A research fellow in Family Medicine, Dr. Gangar shares her experiences of her path to a research career and the people along the way who have made it all possible.
Right at the border of two states, my hometown was a mix of many cultures — me being a Gujarati, living in Maharashtra, going to a Catholic convent school with a huge population from Karnataka. I come from a middle class family with a strong value system instilled in me from a very young age. Good education was always at the center of my upbringing. My parents are the center of my world. Everything I am today is because of their love and support.
Medicine, medicine, medicine — that was everything to me. I remember in fourth grade, we were taught about intestines, and we had to draw diagrams. What incentivized my interest in medicine was having bone sets lying around at home to explore when no one was looking.
I went on to join the inaugural class of a new medical school in our town. We got to learn directly from staff and accomplished physicians. I stayed in my hometown for 26 years. My friends from kindergarten are my bridesmaids now.
I am a little bit of everything. I am a trained Indian classical dancer who has played basketball since I was 7. I am a big Bollywood buff, yet I'm essentially a nerd at heart. I am just a girl next door with a spirit that won't give up.
I finished my medical degree in India and worked as a primary care physician to the best of my capacity. But I knew there was more to seek and more to learn.
I worked in a rural setting in India, and I wanted to see the bigger world out there. I knew I wanted to pursue residency in the best place and the best institution in the U.S. I love medicine, and this is the "mecca of medicine." I knew I had to be here. I love research. It was the organic next step in my journey.
I cold-emailed every faculty member at Mayo for two years until I got my break. I emailed my principal investigator in 2019, and when I emailed again in 2021, it caught his attention.
I interviewed for a research trainee program in Family Medicine, and I got the job. Keeping updated on his groundbreaking work and truly chasing what I wanted with all my heart landed me here.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and financial constraints, I was quarantined in Egypt for 15 days on a meager budget of $350 and then came to the U.S. It has only been an upward and onward journey since. I am only getting started.
Every experience comes with a few hiccups. It may have helped to have a more streamlined and easier way to and apply and get into Mayo. It would have been great to find openings a bit more frequently. I eventually realized that it all does pay off. Your efforts will be noticed, and your talent will flourish.
I could write a book on the highlights of my experience at Mayo. From my principal investigator, Dr. Thomas Thacher, who was incredibly supportive when I faced a family medical emergency two weeks after moving to Rochester; to Terry, who made sure I got a bike to commute to work; to Shivam, who helped me move in; to meeting Frank, who drove the bus to Austin at 5 a.m., making my journey as pleasant as he could; to my dear colleagues from Sudan to Egypt to India. Rochester truly has the best people I have ever met.
The confidence and the opportunities I found here within the first three months have been greater than the previous three years. I am a better physician and a more well-rounded person than I ever was. I have learned about the U.S. health care system and research from the ground level. And with things like Thursdays on First to the Cascade bike trails, I always have a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
I can certainly say I might have worked with most of the primary care physicians on some level. I work with Dr. Thacher, a world-renowned family medicine physician, and a legend in the field of rickets. I work with Dr. Walter Franz III, a veteran with countless stories to tell. Dr. Franz is so passionate about teaching and has been doing it for 30 years. I work with Dr. Sumit Bhagra, Dr. Tamim Rajjo, Dr. Jay-Sheree Allen who leave no stone unturned in making everyone from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and have their voices heard. I work with Julie, my dear research coordinator, who just got me fresh homegrown tomatoes. There are countless colleagues who make me feel welcomed, heard and cared for.
What inspires me about Mayo Clinic is its innovation, acceptance and the opportunities under the many roofs of many campuses, buildings and subways at Mayo Clinic.
If you are torn between here and someplace else — unless it's for personal preference — I have nothing but wonderful experiences to share. Keep trying. You might hear, "It's difficult if you don't know anyone." But, I didn't have a direct access into the system. If I can get in, anyone can.
I will always try to pass it forward. This is my first year at Mayo, and I am getting to share my story. I look forward to the day I get to share my Mayo story a few years down the line in a new role.
In closing, in Hindi, we say, "Haso, jeeyo, muskurao. Kya pata kal ho na ho." Roughly translated, it means, "Laugh, live, smile. You never know when it will be your last day here."