John Odackal, MD, PGY-2

On a hike — hopefully not getting lost.

I grew up in a small suburban town near Hartford, Connecticut. I completed my undergraduate degree in biology at the University of Chicago and a Masters in Teaching at New York University. I then taught chemistry and biology in public schools for three years. I loved teaching, and working in a community setting, but longed to engage in higher-level science and research. This led me to medical school at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and then to a residency in Internal Medicine at UVA. Medicine has been a perfect combination of engagement with community and interesting science.

Why medicine? Why UVA?

John and his wife, Namrita

One reason I chose UVA was the opportunity to learn about and conduct clinical research. In my first year of residency, I established both clinical and research mentors in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine in the Department of Medicine. During my second year, DOM is sponsoring my participation in the School of Medicine’s combined M.D./M.S. in Clinical Research program. These opportunities have moved me closer to my future career as a physician-scientist.

Proudest achievement outside the professional realm?

My relationship with my wife. Since we first met in my senior year of college, Namrita has completed her pediatric residency, published artwork in multiple medical journals, and obtained a NICU fellowship position at UVA.

We have built a dream-like life together that now includes daily home-cooked meals, frequent trips to Charlottesville wineries, occasional hikes in the mountains, and board games in the company of our cats Kevin and Monkey. Supporting and contributing to Namrita’s personal and professional growth over the last 10 years has been the most rewarding part of my life.

What’s a story your family tells about you?

My family keeps a running list of stories about me getting lost. The earliest takes place in India when I was two years old; while my parents were at a security check-point, I slipped away from them and walked straight past the security guards. My parents, who did not speak the local language and couldn’t communicate the urgency of the situation to the security guards, were forced to dodge past them when they saw me walking out the door onto the busy streets of a major Indian city.

Another story takes place when I was eight and got lost in a 10-acre wooded area for 12 hours. My parents say I never called out or made any sounds of distress. They ultimately found me stuck in a thorn bush.

I’ve been lost driving without a GPS on the crowded one-way streets of Spain, and in the small towns of Panama. My optimistic interpretation of these stories is I don’t rattle easily.

On a visit to Asheville, NC

Where did you go on your last vacation?

To northern Italy with Namrita to enjoy its beautiful countryside. We spent the majority of our time in Tuscany eating delicious food served over long meals with Italian wines. We also thoroughly enjoyed Venice for its sense of community, all the towns along the coast for their white castles, Italian pastries, and picturesque beaches.

What’s one thing you always have in your fridge?

Yogurt. It’s been a staple in my fridge since I was a child. While a teenager, I would eat yogurt as an accompaniment to my mom’s Indian food (especially the spicy dishes). As a college student, I discovered yogurt as a breakfast food with granola or cereal. Nowadays, I can eat it anytime — I consume at least a quart of plain yogurt a week!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I’m a science geek who could easily spend all day discussing interesting topics in medicine and other science-related fields. Unfortunately, the most important people in my life, including my wife, family, and friends, sometimes want to talk about other subjects. For this reason, I’d love to study improv comedy. The best comedians I’ve seen can start and maintain an interesting conversation on any topic with any audience. This skill would be invaluable for a nerdy resident like myself who would love to talk with colleagues about sports, the latest TV shows, or local bands without knowing much about these topics.

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