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Ravi K. Mallavarapu, MD, a nephrologist interested in living donor kidney transplantation, was inspired to become a doctor by his grandfather. If he didn’t pursue a career in medicine, Dr. Mallavarapu may have become a naturalist who is involved in the conservation of trees and wildlife. The abundant nature in North Carolina and UNC’s mission were two of the reasons he now finds himself in Chapel Hill.

What brought you to UNC Medical Center?

I really like UNC’s mission to improve the health of all people across North Carolina and beyond and provide access to everyone regardless of where they come from. I was also impressed with the diverse talent in our nephrology and transplant department in patient care, education and research.  Finally, North Carolina with its beautiful forests and mountains is also great.

Where are you from?

Coastal Andhra Pradesh, India with its beautiful beaches and hills.

Did you always want to be a doctor?

I first wanted to be a train driver. Then it was to be a naturalist and work for the National Geographic. However, having talented physicians in the family like my grandfather who was the first ophthalmologist in our state as well as a freedom fighter rubbed off on me and I naturally gravitated to the medical field.

How did you choose your specialty?

Kidney physiology and renal diseases were fascinating to me in medical school and I had a great mentor, Dr. Stanley Peskoe in my medicine residency. Nephrology is unique in that it naturally involves looking at the whole patient as opposed to being organ centric. It also enables rewarding, long term relationships with patients and transplantation in particular needs excellent teamwork which I enjoy.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Anytime I hear that my patient has better quality of life and able to pursue hobbies and goals – whether it is to travel or go fishing again or attend a game with their family -that is very rewarding.

What are some of the new developments in your field of specialty?

The field of transplantation has evolved tremendously over the last decade and we are continuously looking to find new ways to refine how we manage immunosuppression and extend survival for patients and transplanted organs. At the same time, we are at an exciting frontier in looking at new ways to prevent and slow progression of Chronic Kidney Disease.

Is there a particular achievement (professional or personal) that has been most gratifying to you?

Going back to do a fellowship in transplant nephrology after several years of being in practice, seeing transplantation transform patient’s lives and being a part of the care team.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Listen to patients with compassion, remember that you are an instrument in helping them improve their health” – Souris Pramoda.

If you weren’t a physician, what would you like to be doing?

A forest ranger or naturalist involved in conservation of trees and wildlife.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Tennis, hiking, nature study.

Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?

Life’s journey is beautiful. Live in the present cheerfully.

What was the last book you read?

My family and other animals by Gerald Durrell.