Dr. Veeti Tandon was inspired to become a doctor when she was 8 years old. Her grandpa had eye surgery, which was videotaped, and given to him. Veeti found the tape and watched it. Riveted by what she saw, which was very invasive eye surgery, she knew she wanted to somehow make medicine part of her life’s work. It sparked her inspiration to become a doctor and was always part of her professional plan.
Veeti is also a dancer. She performed Indian and Modern dance in high school and chose her undergraduate college based on the dance program. She attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she majored in Dance, Sociology/Anthropology, Biology and balanced that with classes she had to take to get pre-med credits.
Immediately after college she went to medical school at the University of Minnesota. It’s common for students to take a break between college and med school, but Veeti decided to jump right in. It was during her 3rd year that she thought she may need to take a break from the rigors of med school. By this point in the program, a student is supposed to know what their specialty is going to be. Veeti wasn’t ready to make that declaration, so she took it as a cue to take a break.
So, she went back to dancing. She took a year off and worked as an artist, dancing in a troop that traveled to Toronto & New York City. It was a good break from the intensity of med school and she developed an appreciation for how hard it is to earn a living as an artist. She supplemented the dance work with a job in the administrative offices at the U of M.
After that time off, she returned to medical school, revitalized and ready to get back into the medical field. That time in her life was a great lesson about knowing when it’s time to take a break from something and not just plow right through life.
During her 4th year in medical school, she traveled to Ghana to work and study for 3 months. Being a woman traveling alone in a country she didn’t know, was more intense than she expected. She was totally removed from anything in culture that she was familiar with. It was socially isolating and was the first time she had ever felt like that. This experience has helped her relate to her patients who are immigrants and may suffer from the common ailments of social isolation.
Prior to departing to Ghana, she knew she would do her residency at HCMC and was excited to return and get started. There are many reasons why she chose this hospital. “If I trained there, I can work anywhere.” She loved the mission at HCMC and knew she would learn so much.
When Veeti talks about her style, she expresses that she likes bright colors and that she MUST wear earrings. She actually admitted to having an emergency pair in her car. She likes to be comfortable because she’s running in and out of patient rooms taking care of sick people. She’s recently started wearing sneakers because of foot issues from her years of dancing.
The most important part of Veeti’s style is her active presence for her patients. “I need to be present and put together so the focus is on the patient in front of me. That means I have to take care of myself too.” Her style strategy is to get good sleep, be well fed and meditate. Throw on some sparkly earrings and she’s good to go.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Dr. Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi from the 1800’s. She was one of the earliest Indian female physicians and practiced in the United States.
Would you like to be famous?
No. I want to be useful, make a difference, be kind, laugh a lot and be happy.
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Yes, I like to be prepared. I don’t rehearse every time. If it’s a difficult call, then yes.
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Sleep in. Have a really good meal that I didn’t cook. Dancing, reading, having my kids do something goofy. Just a day without having to multi-task.
When did you last sing to yourself?
Oh, on my way here! I sing a lot in the car. I’m a total rock star…in the car.
If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
The mind. That’s a tough one, but I’d say mind, so I could continue to learn.
Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
No, but we’re all going to die and I’m not scared of it.
What do you and your partner appear to have in common?
Humor, politics, travel and not sweating the small stuff.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My village of people (family, friends, co-workers). I’m also grateful for my health.
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish we could have lived closer to my extended family. They lived in India, so we’d only see them every other summer. My kids’ grandparents are here and I see the beauty of them being part of the day to day.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Take more risks in my career. Medicine is not a risk in many ways because of its clear path. It’s not an easy career, but it’s not necessarily risky.