As a student of economics, Dev Kalyan noticed that the health care system was different from any other business model. In particular, he found troubling the fact that major decisions shaping the field - from issues of privacy to intellectual property to drug development- were not being made by physicians, the group most directly charged with improving patient outcomes. Now, as he pursues medical and law degrees simultaneously, his plan is to enter the medical profession equipped to change the status quo.
The son of immigrants from Madras, India, Mr. Kalyan inherited his interest in medicine from his mother, a pathologist who ran a blood bank in Elgin, Ill. Straddling two cultures, he says he took the best of both, acquiring his work ethic and strong concern for his community from the Indian culture while cherishing the opportunities provided by America.
Mr. Kalyan's first lessons in the illogic of the health care system were hard won: As the chief caretaker for his mother as she battled ovarian cancer, he witnessed firsthand how access to health care can change a medical outcome. Diagnosed at a late stage, his mother was told that her situation was hopeless. Under her guidance, and with the help of his mother's physician friends, Mr. Kalyan, who was still an undergraduate at George Washington University, explored current cancer research and found a doctor near their home in Chicago who would perform an experimental bone marrow transplant. His mother lived for another 18 months.
"I was incredibly fortunate to have these resources around me," says Mr. Kalyan. At the same time, his experience left him acutely aware of the unevenness of the system. "It's easy to see, from a patient's perspective, why huge expenditures occur at the end of patients' lives," he adds, "but it is hard to accept from the economist's perspective. We need a system that provides the best care in a world of limited resources. That may mean the reallocation of resources toward early detection and prevention."
In Mr. Kalyan's view, physicians need access to the language of law to help change the system. As a physician, he hopes to organize his colleagues to use the framework of law to approach problems. "As a lawyer, you draw on the financial world, media, and public policy analysis. But in the end, the actual implementation of programs can only happen through the statutory, regulatory, and administrative framework."
Before embarking on medical school at Duke University, Mr. Kalyan went to culinary school in 2001 at Le Cordon Bleu in London. (His favorite recipes are from Thai, Indian, and Middle Eastern-influenced "fusion" cuisine.) He and his wife, Priya, came to New York after his first two years of medical school at Duke. After law school, they plan to return to North Carolina where he will complete his medical degree. About his wide-ranging career interests, Mr. Kalyan says simply, "Immigrants tend to push barriers."