Dr. Rajesh Dandamudi’s roots in Bay City run deep. He was born in Flint to immigrants who moved from India. By the time he was a year old, the family was living in Bay City. He grew up surrounded by doctors who he thought of as uncles. After studying at the American University of the Caribbean and completing a residency in Metro Detroit, Dandamudi expected to practice medicine in the Detroit area. However, he quickly discovered his calling to live and work in his hometown.
You and your father (Dr. Shyam Dandamudi) are both doctors, practicing here in Bay City. Was that always the plan?
Dr. Rajesh DandamudiMy mom tried really hard to make sure that we were getting good exposure to everything, so she really pushed us toward engineering, math and science, and the arts and everything. Ultimately it didn’t work though. My brother and I are both physicians.
When you went to medical school did you plan to come back to Bay City?
I did my residency in Southfield in Metro Detroit, and loved it there, and I had plans to get into a sub-specialty fellowship. Then Dr. Terry Dardas got sick, not life-threatening, but in a way that he decided it was time for him to hang it up, and he retired very abruptly. At the time, I was working at Henry Ford Hospital as a hospitalist, where the shift was I was on for seven days in a row and off for seven days in a row. It’s pretty intense, but Terry got sick and my dad called and said, ‘Hey can you just come help out and fill the gap until we get somebody else in here?’ So I came here and started moonlighting, working Monday until Thursday. One night I was at dinner with a friend and he said, very blatantly, ‘You seem unhappy with what you’re doing.’ Then he said ‘I think you should make that (the Bay City practice) your permanent job.’ So I did.
Doctors are needed everywhere, so why Bay City?
I went off to med school and found myself back here, and it’s easily the best decision I’ve ever made. People are just incredibly appreciative, and people are kind. We have a great community. I took care of four generations of one family. That was amazing. You don’t get that in a city like Detroit, or any big city.
Safe community, good schools, accessibility, all speak for themselves, but for me the biggest thing is job satisfaction. My satisfaction of living and working here is higher than anyplace else that I could possibly be. I don’t miss dinner, I don’t miss bedtime with the kids, I don’t miss spending time with my wife. I think all the docs here would agree that you leave work and you feel satisfied with what you did for the day. It’s related to the people that live here, the patients, the appreciation for what you’re doing for people that’s all of it.
What is the difference between the health concerns you see here and in the bigger cities?
Where I was working at Henry Ford, I was in the cardiac observation unit. These are people who are coming in with chest pain that have not had heart attacks. A significant portion of the people I would see were looking for a warm bed for the night; a lot of homeless people, and it was hard. Here, at least in my day to day practice, that’s not something I encounter. There are always social things, whatever is happening to that person, whether it’s homelessness, or something else, that’s the most important thing, because that’s happening to that person and that’s all that matters. So, in that sense, it’s easier.
From that perspective, the work that I do here I don’t think I could ever replicate. We get a lot of calls because we build relationships with people and they really value our opinion, things that are medical and non-medical, just because you become friends with people.
What do people in Bay City do right that you don’t see other places?
The Rail Trail is incredible. The whole riverfront development and connecting it to the downtown area. That’s one of our favorite things to do. (The kids) always want to come down to the river and they want to walk, they want to see the mural under the bridge, and they just want to keep going. That’s not something that when I first moved back here, just over nine years ago, it didn’t exist. Downtown was not nearly as developed.
There’s so much pull to the city. By population it’s not huge, but you’ve got a metro airport, that if you show up 30 minutes early for your flight, you’re waiting for 25 minutes to get on the plane. We are an hour and a half from Metro Detroit, we’re two hours from Grand Rapids, we’re two and a half hours from up north. It’s unmatchable. I’m excited to see this city continue to develop as it is because we have so much to offer. I told the physician recruiter at the hospital to bring people to me and I’ll sell this place. I love this place. I grew up here and I came back here, and to me this is an easy sell.
Is there anything lacking that Bay City needs?
Developing the next generation of physicians. Talent is something that all of the fields that we’re dealing with, everybody’s been working on it. That’s something I think McLaren has been committed to. They’re doing a lot to try to help with that type of succession plan.
One of the strengths of this community has been how good the doctors are. There are certain service lines that we don’t have resources for, nor would any community hospital, but the busy docs and the popular docs you hear about, especially sub-specialty, I think they could go to any city and be considered the top of what they’re doing. The hospital is definitely committed to developing that.
We have these med schools that have developed and the whole idea of those was to increase doctors in the communities. I don’t know if we’re necessarily seeing that. The drain of talent is always difficult but I think that still having the Central Michigan University Medical School in the area helps because we’re more likely to retain those people. I think that there could still be more done to partner with those schools to bring people into the communities earlier to engage them. I like to start recruiting them early. Invariably most of the students who come here love being here, and most of the residents stay here.
Any second thoughts about leaving Metro Detroit and returning home?
I look back on that conversation with my friend and him telling me hey this is the right move, and I was thinking right place, right time and it was meant to be that way.