World traveler finds home in Red Wing

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Editor's note: This story is part of Faces A to Z, a series highlighting familiar — and not so familiar — faces around Goodhue County. Learn more about the series and how to get involed here, and check back to the A to Z page for stories, history lessons and Q&As.

The new ob-gyn at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing came to the community by way of Africa, Cuba, India, New York, Thailand and the U.K.

Dr. Rubin Raju, who now splits his residence between Red Wing and Rochester, said he has experienced a lot living in a variety of countries, including the differences in health care systems around the world.

The 29-year-old's story began in Malawi, a country in southeastern Africa where he and his sister were born. His parents are Indian in origin, and his father was stationed in Malawi as a diplomat.

While he was still a child, Raju said he moved with his family to Cuba for about four years.

"Cuba was a great experience," he said. "I was very young but I do have some fond memories of the beaches, the caves, the vintage cars and the people in general. Very nice people."

The family continued to move around, first to India for a short time and then to Queens, N.Y., where Raju completed elementary school.

Civil war

They moved back to India for a year and later to Cote D'ivoire in West Africa in the early 2000s — just in time for a civil war. Raju said he remembers strict curfews forbidding people from leaving their homes.

"You turn on your TV and it says that, 'The city of Abajian is now under our control,'" he recalled. "Every five to ten minutes you could hear a shell go off, and the foreign minister was shot right outside our embassy compound."

Raju started high school in Cote D'ivoire and learned to speak French, among a handful of languages he picked up over the years. He went on to finish high school at the family's next stop in Thailand.

When it came time to apply to universities, Raju said he explored options in the U.S., though a scholarship to study medicine in India helped make up his mind.

"In India you can see the rich and the poor right in front of your eyes," he said, adding that working in a hospital there gave him a new perspective. "You become grateful for what God has given you."

His goal early in his studies was to be a general surgeon, but the field was not what he expected. After he started helping deliver babies, Raju said he enjoyed forming an emotional connection to patients.

"It's a very happy profession," he said of obstetrics, "and it's very rewarding."

That connection to patients was reinforced after coming to the U.S. and working under Dr. Eugene Scioscia at a hospital in Pittsburgh.

"He knew his patients very well," Raju said of Scioscia. "That's one thing I wanted to incorporate into my practice, is getting to know my patients, getting to know what their emotional state is."

Raju applied for a clinical rotation in the U.K. before returning stateside to complete his residency in Michigan. He then fulfilled his longtime dream of coming to Mayo Clinic.

Health care systems

Having experienced different health care systems firsthand, Raju said each has its own benefits and pitfalls.

As the U.S. debates health care affordability, the U.K.'s National Health Service is facing financial woes. In India, Raju said patients can see long wait times for scheduled procedures.

He said the benefit of practicing medicine in the U.S. is caring for patients with the latest technology and innovations.

"I think Mayo does a great job at that," he added. "We're constantly changing for the better, analyzing ourselves and seeing where we can improve."

A place to call home

Looking back at his extensive travels, Raju said the biggest difference between large cities and communities such as Red Wing is a sense of belonging.

"In the smaller communities you get to be a part of them, and you get to see the kids you deliver grow up," he said.

Having moved around so much as a child, Raju said he craved a place to settle down.

"To belong to a community gives you a sense of peace within yourself," he said. "When you belong to a certain place, you feel at home."

His next goal: finding a church choir to join.