Sponsored post | NextGen: Young medical professional Neeraj Maheshwari on how his grandmother inspired him to always do well and do good

NextGen: Young medical professional Neeraj Maheshwari on how his grandmother inspired him to always do well and do good

Northville native Neeraj Maheshwari, second-year anesthesiology resident at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, talks to The Indian SCENE about the importance of education, family and Indian culture.

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This post is sponsored by Schoolcraft College.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, it’s comforting to know that skilled and dedicated medical professionals like Neeraj Maheshwari are on the front lines. Maheshwari, a graduate of Northville High School, is a second-year anesthesiology resident at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. It’s the latest achievement for a young man who already has attained high levels of academic and community-service success.

He began his path to success as a Dual Enrollment student at Schoolcraft College, where his mother, Dr. Anna Maheshwari, is Chair of the English Department. This program, in most cases, allows students to primarily earn college credit in small and personal distance learning and/or traditional class settings as well as have one-on-one interactions with professors.

Generally, the tuition and fees associated with dual enrollment are covered by the school district. Neeraj took 13 courses, including chemistry, math and several humanities classes.

Please tell us why you took so many courses as a Dual Enrollment student at Schoolcraft College.

Neeraj Maheshwari: I took a variety of courses at Schoolcraft, including English, math, history, sociology and communication. Many of these courses served as required coursework for the Schoolcraft College Honors Program, providing an opportunity to fine-tune public speaking and communication skills, be involved in our local community through social service, and work alongside a more independent and diverse student population.

It was certainly an added benefit to earn college credit that could be applied once graduating from Schoolcraft and beginning at the University of Cincinnati, where I completed my undergraduate and medical school studies. These extra credits allowed me to pursue a second major in Spanish Language, as well as multiple study-abroad opportunities, including six weeks in Madrid, four weeks in Guatemala and four months sailing to 12 different countries in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa through the Semester at Sea program.

Tell us a little bit about your experience as a dual-enrolled student. What did you like and how did it benefit you?

NM: As a dual-enrolled student, I had the unique privilege of being able to thrive in two distinctly unique academic settings. While I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the social interactions and extra-curricular activities of high school, I feel so fortunate to have learned alongside and from a more independent and diverse group of peers while studying at Schoolcraft College.

I benefited most, I think, from learning how to embody professionalism and clear communication skills while at Schoolcraft College. The three most productive and meaningful courses I took at Schoolcraft College, without a doubt, were Fundamentals of Speech with Dr. JuJuan Taylor, Humanities 190 with Professor Jim Nissen, and Sociology 290 with Professor Josselyn Moore.

Would you recommend the dual-enrollment experience and why?

NM: Yes! It is a unique opportunity to learn beyond a traditional high school setting through enhanced interpersonal communication, greater sense of independence as a young adult in being responsible for your own learning, and social service in the local community.

Now let’s learn a bit more about you personally. Who or what inspires you?

NM: My grandmother, Dr. Saroj Bajaj, has been a source of inspiration for me ever since I was a little boy and even today as I continue to navigate the world as a working professional. Her selflessness manifests itself through service that has directly benefited an immeasurable number of people. This includes her children, grandchildren, friends, extended family and hundreds of students at the nonprofit nursing school she founded in Hyderabad, India, Suman Girls’ College. Education, my grandma has taught me, is empowerment.

Education is the world’s great equalizer. Education is a privilege that must never be taken for granted. Through her own volition, my grandmother went on to earn a bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in a society where pursuing an education as a female after marriage was highly unorthodox. Later in her life, she founded and managed a credit union exclusively for underprivileged women, and went on to build a tuition-free College of Nursing for young women from rural backgrounds who would not have otherwise had the opportunity to study and earn a degree.

Neeraj’s grandmother, Dr. Saroj Bajaj, receives the National Citizen’s Award from Mother Teresa in 1994.

As a result of her leadership and service, she was awarded the Indian National Citizen’s Award by Mother Teresa in 1994 and even represented the Indian Government at the UN World Conference on Women in 1995. My Naniji (“nani” translates to grandmother in Hindi, “-ji” is a suffix used as a term of respect) is a true keystone, holding the arches of our family and various communities together through her immense compassion and limitless empathy. Whenever I visit Naniji in India, she goes out of her way to make sure my trip is productive, meaningful and unforgettable. My grandmother has taught me to not only go out in the world and do well, but also to go into the world and do good.

How do you stay active in the Indian community?

NM: Growing up, I participated in a “Satsang” (translates in Sanskrit to “spiritual discourse”) group with six to eight other Indian American families with whom my parents had formed close relationships with when they first moved to the United States. On the last Sunday of each month, we would rotate gatherings at each family’s home and have a Hindi class for the children, followed by a short lecture on spirituality or ethics, and finally a delicious dinner.

These Sundays formed the backbone of my literacy in the Hindi language and my understanding of embracing religion and spirituality in modern times. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate school studies at the University of Cincinnati, I played an active role in multiple organizations that allowed me to stay active in the Indian community. The two most relevant student organizations I participated in were the Asian American Association, through which we hosted social and community events, and a Bollywood fusion A Capella group I co-founded called UC Junoon (“Junoon” is the Hindi word for “passion”) in which we blended together American Pop and Hindi film music to perform for audiences both on and off campus.

The most gratifying parts of these experiences were sharing Indian culture with those who had not yet been exposed to it across all faiths, ethnicities and skin tones. Today, I attend the services of my local temple with my family and use my faith as a social platform to interact with the Indian community.

Neeraj’s dad, Neal, works at Ford Motor Company and also teaches math as an adjunct faculty member at Schoolcraft College. Also pictured are Neeraj’s sister, Dr. Neha Mantri (a former dual-enrolled student at Schoolcraft College and now the Chief Cardiology Fellow at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco), his brother-in-law Shalin Mantri, Product Manager at Google, and Coco and Kiwi, Neeraj’s maltipoos.

What is the most valuable aspect about being a part of the Indian community?

NM: As a second-generation Indian American, I feel privileged to embody two distinctly unique cultures. It’s as if I have two internal switches, one Indian and the other American, that can be dialed up or down depending on the social context. The most valuable aspect of being a part of the Indian community is the extensive support system that comes along with it.

Through extended friends and family, it usually doesn’t take long to discover relationships with fellow Indian Americans. Furthermore, discipline and respect for elders are values the Indian community has taught me to hold dear and will be qualities I hope to share with my children someday. And, of course, it goes without saying that the delicious home-cooked Indian food my mom and others make for me is an added bonus in being a part of the Indian community.

What’s your favorite activity?

NM: As a second-year resident physician, I never thought I would have time to take care of anyone but myself throughout residency. Midway through my intern year of training, I decided to finally turn my childhood dream of having a dog into a reality. So I bought not one, but TWO dogs! Today, my two maltipoos (Kiwi and Coco) are 1 year old and have reached a healthy 15 pounds each. They are littermates and keep each other occupied all day long. It’s amazing to see how these fur balls have personalities of their own, just like little kids. I love taking them for a walk when I get home from work, teaching them new tricks, and watching them fall asleep on my lap when I’m studying in the evening.

Neeraj, at work.

To learn more: If you’re interested in becoming a Dual Enrollment student at Schoolcraft College, your first step is meeting with your high school counselor. Go here to learn more about Dual Enrollment at Schoolcraft College. You also can talk to a representative from Schoolcraft College’s admissions department by calling 734-462-4683 Monday through Friday during normal business hours.

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