The Tuftonian Dream: Know your audience

When you were young, you maybe had a dream. You were going to fly to the moon, pass EC 5, cure cancer. Then, you grew up. You cut your hair, chose your major, changed your outlook. You changed a lot, but did you change your dream? 

Senior Suvi Rajadurai knows that he will never upstage Roger Federer, his tennis idol, under the bright lights of a famous tennis court, but not everyone knows that Suvi once envisioned finding fame on an entirely different stage. “I really wanted to be[come] a comedian when I was in middle school … I really liked the sensation of being able to make people laugh,” he said. Suvi modeled his forehand after that of his favorite player, and he practiced the jokes that he heard in YouTube clips on his middle school classmates. Soon, though, Suvi realized that he didn’t take to stand-up comedy like Roger Federer takes to the grass courts of Wimbledon. 

In high school, a fortuitous turn of events led Suvi to pursue musical theater. Eventually, he served as the vice president of the drama club. Acting afforded him another avenue to inspire laughter, and he loved “being able to communicate and tell a story.” As a first-year at Tufts, Suvi participated in three shows on campus. “I’m one of those people who hates being in a crowded room where no one’s talking,” he remarked. By his sophomore year, though, he had squarely settled on the pre-medical path, which meant that inevitably, he would have to take the MCAT in a crowded room where no one’s talking. Once he established medicine as his particular passion, he feared that he wouldn’t have time to continue acting. He thought, “Okay, I’m gonna have to make sacrifices,” and he scaled back his involvement in shows at Tufts.

Then, Suvi went to work at Mass General Hospital, where he made no further sacrifices. After all, medical practitioners swear to do no harm. At the beginning, Suvi’s volunteer work consisted chiefly of pushing around a snack cart, but Suvi credits that experience with steering him to a pivotal point of understanding. He expresses, “I got to really interact with people, make sure that [they] were comfortable, listen to their stories.” Ultimately, he asserts, “I realized I could feel the same way in theater and medicine.”

By Suvi’s assessment, those two apparently separate careers boil down to “making people feel better and working with a team,” and Suvi believes that tennis and treatment share certain similarities as well. Both pursuits, one leisurely and one life-saving, require that one make flexible adjustments to challenging situations, and in both instances, as with the comedy that initially attracted Suvi, “You have to know your audience and craft a response that’s applicable.”

At the end of the day, how will Suvi know if he has done his job? His patients will improve under his diligent care, but moreover, he emphasized, “I don’t want to be known as purely a physician. If you have me as a physician, you know me as a friend.”