Debraj “Raj” Mukherjee, MD, MPH ’08
Few neurosurgeons come to the Bloomberg School, but the ones who do are absolutely amazing. Consider Raj Mukherjee, who works to improve treatment outcomes and expand access to neuro-oncological care for children and adults with brain tumors. As a medical student at Dartmouth, Raj was a C. Everett Koop Scholar and a health policy fellow under Surgeon General Richard Carmona. He then came to the Bloomberg School as a Sommer Scholar and Albert Schweitzer Fellow.
Raj chose neurosurgery “in part out of a sheer fascination with studying the human brain, often described as the seat of the soul.” As the youngest child in a family anchored by two hard-working immigrant parents who often lacked adequate health insurance, Raj’s family “often found ourselves awaiting appointments at the free clinic for months or worrying endlessly about how to pay for expensive medical bills and hospital visits. It was through the prism of these experiences that my interest in the intersection of public policy, health economics, and the neurosurgical sciences began.”
Raj describes his year as a Sommer Scholar at JHSPH as “likely the most intellectually engaging and productive academic year of my entire career. In addition to learning in the classroom, I was able to begin developing a practical skillset in epidemiology and biostatics that was first used to craft research papers retrospectively assessing disparities in access to and outcomes from neurosurgical care in the United States, but that has since expanded to include the full development of brain and spine tumor clinical trials, with an emphasis on design elements to allow the inclusion of low-income and uninsured patients, who often have relatively poor enrollment in the most advanced clinical research trials in our nation's largest academic medical centers.”
After earning his MPH in 2008, Raj began his surgical training as a Halsted Intern at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and led the Neuro-Oncology Surgical Outcomes Lab. There, he used his training in biostatistics, epidemiology and clinical design to lead efforts to update a 10-year retrospective database of brain tumor patients at Johns Hopkins. He has also mined national clinical and epidemiological databases and published first-authored articles in British Medical Journal, Pediatrics, Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, and the New England Journal of Medicine.
Raj has made great strides in uncovering the extent and causes of health disparities in access to care for brain tumor patients. In one of his latest articles, published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, Raj and co-authors used multivariate analysis of Medicaid data to demonstrate that African-American brain tumor patients had significantly higher odds of developing postoperative complications and were significantly more likely to have longer hospital stays and greater total charges than Caucasian counterparts.
He reflects, “the knowledge and skills I learned at JHSPH continue to shape my research methods and objectives daily; perhaps even more importantly, they have allowed me a unique channel through which to assess our current state of clinical practice and patient outcomes. My time at JHSPH opened my eyes to a sphere of academia to which I had never before been exposed, but which now has become interwoven in the fabric of my clinical practice. I am so very grateful to the faculty and students of JHSPH for all they have taught me. I know that I am a better clinician and researcher for having been at Bloomberg, and I continue to hope that my resultant work can bring more quality and equitable care to neurosurgical patients across our country and world in the years and decades to come."
Raj is currently a neurosurgery resident at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute in the Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles. His significant accomplishments in neurosurgery, oncology, and health care advocacy won him a 2013 Leadership Award from the AMA Foundation. His work continues the Bloomberg School tradition of advancing both the science and the practice of public health.