Several years ago, Michigan Medicine’s Dr. Vineet Chopra didn’t know he’d incorporate both India and the US into his medical career. Now an esteemed doctor and author, Chopra recently received the 2019 Distinguished Clinical and Translational Research Mentor Award for his dedication to mentorship.

“The award is given to nine people across campus who are believed to be outstanding mentors, giving back as much as they’ve received,” Chopra said. “For me, as an immigrant, that means giving back to India as well.”

This sense of cultural responsibility led Chopra and his colleague—Dr. Krishnan Raghavendran—to organize Michigan Medicine’s India Platform. He described the endeavor, which began after former U-M President Mary Sue Coleman’s 2012 trip to India, as a “labor of love.”

“What I’ve enjoyed most about this journey is linking people at Michigan with outstanding clinicians and researchers in India who have similar and complementary interests. We’ve done this at every level, connecting faculty, students, and residents,” said Chopra.

Exchanges of ideas and information have remained core to Chopra throughout his career. Demonstrated not only by his mentorship award, but also in his approach to teaching, he strives to provide his students with tools for success in the medical field while encouraging them to meet him halfway.

“The Indian model of teaching is less Socratic than in the US,” Chopra explained. “Incorporating that into my own teaching has been helpful. Having a frank conversation about expectations early on can create a great give-and-take relationship, where both mentor and mentee are putting in equal effort.”

Philosophies like this one were cultivated in part through Chopra’s medical schooling in India, which he described as “the best decision [he] ever made” after a very global upbringing: at six months old, he left Delhi with his family, eventually attending elementary school in France, middle school in Egypt, and high school in Japan.

“My decision to return to India for medical school came directly after my undergrad here in the US,” he continued. “In India, I received a huge amount of clinical training, but I noticed a gap in the public sector in terms of linking evidence to practice and using commonly available medical technology to improve clinical care.”

Landing residencies in New York before eventually taking a job at Michigan, Chopra began to think of himself as someone with an expansive worldview. He quickly noticed that medical research was part of Michigan’s character as an institution. From firsthand experience, he also knew places with heavier patient loads could only prioritize research on nights and weekends. An opportunity to share where there was a clear need became apparent.

This realization, along with input from potential collaborators in India, led Chopra and Raghavendran to launch an annual research workshop at the All Indian Institute for Medical Sciences in Delhi.

“Using our status as the number one public research institution in the US, we have run several research workshops for up to 50 faculty members at AIIMS. Approximately eighty percent of the research ideas we’ve polished by the end of the weeklong conference have gone on to receive funding in India.”

In addition to AIIMS, Chopra, Raghavendran, and the India Platform associates have facilitated partnerships with Amrita Health Sciences in Kerala, Christian Medical College in Vellore, and the Public Health Foundation of India, among others.

“The first thing we try to convey to prospective partners in India is that we really want to partner with them,” Chopra said. “What we want to partner on is dependent on their needs as an institution. We emphasize that we are not here for the short-term; for us, collaboration is a long-term commitment.”