Celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month: Dr. Suchitra Gururaj
Dr. Suchitra Gururaj’s parents are first-generation immigrants and she is a first-generation Indian-American. After completing medical school in India, Gururaj’s father took a post-graduate training opportunity in the U.S. in 1961, four years before the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. He completed his medical internship in Buffalo, New York and finished his fellowship in Brooklyn before moving back to India.
Six years after first arriving in New York, he returned, this time with his wife with the goal of raising their family in the United States.
Balancing cultures… “They expected us to succeed in school and at work, but also uphold the values of our traditions, including respect for others, especially elders and others in positions of authority. We were to exhibit an interest and knowledge in our Indian heritage. They led by example, balancing cultures as they prospered at their work, with my father eventually earning the title of Professor Emeritus at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and my mother serving as an officer and active member of the Indian Association of West Texas. It’s said that the values of Hinduism—detachment, equanimity—and the pursuit of the ‘American Dream’ are often paradoxical; my parents expected us to negotiate that paradox with our values intact and to create our own hybrid identities and approaches.”
First link in a chain migration… “My parents took their role as mentors very seriously. My father, for instance, has trained hundreds of new physicians, whom he encourages to be teachers with integrity. When I was growing up, Lubbock didn’t have any national brands, let alone an Indian restaurant, so they hosted dinners at their home for other recently arrived Indian students. One of the students who attended a dinner at my childhood home later moved to Connecticut and had his own family; when I went to college, he and his wife invited me over to their home for home-cooked dinners and some time away from a cold campus to which I was not yet acclimated. Last year, I offered a meal and mentorship to their son, who just graduated from the College of Natural Sciences at UT. The stories of my parents’ kindnesses that resulted in a virtuous cycle of generosity are numerous and legendary and to me, represent the ways in which immigrants don’t succeed alone and always thrive together.”
Making the most of every opportunity… “Like many immigrants with our story, we do not take for granted the opportunities, both economic and social, of this country, even as we’re aware of inequities as they exist in society. As a woman, I’m also acutely aware of all the freedoms I’ve enjoyed as an American.”
Dr. Gururaj serves as Assistant Vice President for the Longhorn Center for Community Engagement. She earned her Doctorate in Educational Administration from The University of Texas at Austin.