Past President Biography
Family, Friends, Fortitude and Fate
By Lisa Wise-Faberowski, MD, MS, FAAP
Dr. Chandra Ramamoorthy’s story is one of hard work and determination. Chandra, though born in Southern India, was raised in Northern India. Her family moved a lot as her father worked for the government as a topographical surveyor. Chandra was the second oldest of five children. Loyalty and respect were intrinsic values Chandra held for her family.
In many ways, Chandra not only fought for the survival of a young woman (herself) in India, but also the survival of her family. Though she came from the middle class, the ability to maintain one’s social stature in India came at a high price. While still in medical school, due to unforeseen circumstances, the sole financial and overall responsibility for the family fell upon Chandra. In medical school, she initially considered surgery for a career. However, the prevailing attitudes made her choose pediatrics for residency training. A move overseas made anesthesia a better choice for employment and eventually led her to choose pediatric anesthesia for a career.
It was through the financial support of friends that she was able to leave India and pursue anesthesia training and become board certified in anesthesiology in the United Kingdom. During her anesthesia training, Chandra continued to financially support her family in India. Despite enjoying her work and friends in the United Kingdom, Chandra believed in the “American Dream”. She believed, even at the young age of eight, that in America anyone with the humblest of beginnings could be “someone”.
Chandra was good at taking exams and passed the entrance exams to practice medicine in the United States of America. She moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1986. She pursued pediatric anesthesia fellowship training at the University of Michigan. Several faculty in the division of pediatric anesthesiology at Children’s, Dr. Abboy Mohan in particular, were influential in her training and interest in academic pediatric anesthesia. Chandra pursued additional fellowship training in cardiac anesthesia at Loyola University. Loyola had a busy cardiac program with ten heart surgeries per day and she saw one of the earliest Jarvik heart’s being implanted. She stayed on as faculty following her fellowship.
In 1991, she accepted a position at Seattle Children’s Hospital as a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist. She had many mentors, friends and colleagues: Drs. Charles Haberken, Lucy Everett, Rosemary Orr, Anne Lynn and Jeff Morray to name a few. Seattle as a city was a great place to live with close proximity to beautiful mountains. Chandra became an avid hiker, backpacker and skier. She describes Seattle as being her “golden years”.
Chandra continued to develop her academic interests while at Children’s, which provided a good blend of opportunities and mentorship. The POCA (pediatric perioperative cardiac arrest) registry data, housed at the University of Washington was one such opportunity. In 1999, she used her sabbatical time to pursue her research interests at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, evaluating the effect of inspired gas mixtures in single-ventricle infants following a chance meeting with Dr. Dean Kurth, who was at that time working on cerebral near infrared spectroscopy. During her ten years at Seattle, there were programmatic changes to the cardiac surgical program which led her to pursue her academic interests elsewhere.
In 2001, Chandra came to Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Her collaborator and friend, Dr. Jumbo Williams, had also moved from Seattle Children’s to LPCH. They, with the excellent support from other team members, built the pediatric cardiac anesthesia program at Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, as many of us know it today. Chandra has often said “a successful career academic in pediatric cardiac anesthesia is a marathon and not a sprint.” Accordingly, she became an avid runner and is currently training for her first ultramarathon. When not running or working, she enjoys her garden or reads. Non-fiction and historical fiction are the two genres she prefers.
Chandra was one of the founders of the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society (CCAS) and became its second President in 2009. At Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Chandra fostered a team/family environment and essentially, over the last 19 years, has watched her family grow and develop. Though we all could tell our stories of what it was like to be a part of Chandra’s family, our journey’s in pediatric cardiac anesthesia and academics have certainly been touched by a woman’s strength and determination that is far greater than our own.