Doctor Devi Paves her own Path from Medicine to Journalism

by Alicia Chinatomby 

SAJA@20: Newsmakers

This post is part of a series of profiles for the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), a non-profit journalism organization celebrating its 20th anniversary with a national convention on October 11th, 2014. For more details, please click here.

Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, 37, is more than just a doctor.  She is an assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine, a researcher, journalist and an actress. She’s paved her own path in the medical field, all while impacting medical research and inspiring others to open their own doors.

Devi NampiaparampilAs the South Asian Journalists Association celebrates its 20th anniversary on Oct. 11th in New York City, Nampiaparampil will take part as one of the many panelists attending the convention.

During the convention, organized to examine the issues that matter the most to working South Asian journalists, Nampiaparampil will share tips on breaking into the industry.

Nampiaparampil followed a unique path that led her to journalism, documenting and sharing her knowledge of medicine, more specifically in severe chronic pain.

“Normally, in medicine there’s a path. After med school, you do an internship, residency and fellowship,” Nampiaparampil said. “I am creating my own path as I go along.”

She has appeared on more than 100 medical segments on news channels including CNN, CBS and Fox News, to name a few.

Whether it’s discussing frostbite prevention, the rise of diabetes, measles and mumps outbreaks, the Norovirus, Obamacare or football injuries, Nampiaparampil proves to be a medical expert on air.

With more than 50 publications under her belt and more than 20 articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Nampiaparampil said she feels her written work has a lot of impact.

When it comes to delivering the news on air, Nampiaparampil said she has an hour or two to find it, read it, get ready and explain it.

As a teenager, Nampiaparampil suffered from a viral infection that led her to question her career path. Though the infection lasted a month, Nampiaparampil said the infection’s severity meant it took a long time for her lung, heart and bone marrow to heal.

“It wasn’t a regular illness. When I got sick, it was sort of crazy,” Nampiaparampil said. “I was out of school for almost eight months[Doctors] weren’t sure if I’d ever go back to school at all.”

Nampiaparampil said the experience made her reevaluate her life’s purpose, and it led her to want to help people become knowledgeable about pain management.

After recovering, she decided to pursue medicine, and entered the combined B.A. / M.D. program at Northwestern University. She later completed her residency and fellowship training at Harvard Medical School.

Nampiaparampil also started the Brain Injury Clinic at the Veteran Affairs Central California Health Care System in Fresno, which works to improve access to care for veterans and soldiers who suffered blast-related and other head injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Nampiaparampil began speaking with the patients, she said she realized she “was doing something meaningful, but also becoming more aware about the war.”

Having such a high impact on the care of veterans, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs honored Nampiaparampil for the outstanding service in 2011.

“I was used to seeing older people,” Nampiaparampil said. “It was a little bit strange seeing people basically my age with these injuries that I had usually seen [in many elders].”

Nampiaparampil recalled she was talking to a lot of different patients about the war, which inspired her to have a different outlook on soldiers.

“They have the regular problems as the rest of us have,” Nampiaparampil said. “It makes you more aware about the sacrifices they make.”

Nampiaparampil became a member of the South Asian Journalists Association when she was just a primary physician. She said her involvement with SAJA opened various opportunities, including the chance to attend networking and informational seminars.

“As time went on, I met some people from SAJA,” Nampiaparampil said. “The way they were so passionate about what they do made me passionate.”

Follow SAJA and Doctor Devi on Twitter. 

aliciaA New York native, Alicia Chinatomby finds it very hard to pry herself away from a strong-willed protagonist or action-filled book. When she’s not doing that, she’s dancing her way to the beach or diving into a new adventure.

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