With a gift to the Rehabilitative Medicine Teaching and Research Fund.Give Now >
When Shashi Kumar, M.D., Res. ’77, accepted her first job, she was quick to relate the good news to Walter C. Stolov, M.D., then the chair of rehabilitation medicine. And he told her (in so many words) that she’d taken a job with a khaki dress code.
“I joined Madigan not realizing that I was actually joining the U.S. Army!” says Colonel Kumar, UW clinical associate professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. “It was the best professional decision of my life.”
After joining the Army, Kumar spent the next 25 years on active duty, over 15 of them as a department chief, rising to the highest possible rank for a practicing clinician — colonel. She received numerous recognitions and awards, including the Legion of Merit. And for six years, she also served as specialty advisor to the U.S. Army Surgeon General, a role that put Kumar in charge of all rehabilitation doctors in the U.S. Army.
She had no idea that this would be her life’s path when she — then a 23-year-old doctor — first came to the U.S. from New Delhi with her husband, Santosh Kumar, M.D., Res. ’75.
“My aspiration was to become the first physician in my family,” Kumar says. “In the U.S., I felt I could not only achieve professional excellence, but also live a life full of joy and happiness.”
It turns out that her hopes were well-founded.
Soon after the family moved to Seattle, Santosh enrolled in a rehabilitation medicine residency at the UW School of Medicine, and it wasn’t long after when Shashi was invited to join by then-chair Justus F. Lehmann, M.D. “I leapt at the opportunity,” says Kumar.
She admits that completing a residency in a new country while raising Rajesh and Devesh, the couple’s two children, was overwhelming. But it provided her with the foundation she needed. “With the support of my husband and my friends in the Seattle area, residency training really helped me blossom and become the independent, confident professional I am today,” says Kumar.
And, in retrospect, she says, a career with the U.S. Army made perfect sense. When she was a youngster, her father raised her to value service and give back to the community.
Kumar is now a civilian doctor and retired from active duty. But she still serves and cares for active-duty and retired military personnel and their families, bringing people with neurological disabilities, musculoskeletal trauma and post-traumatic stress back to maximum function. “They are some of the most deserving populations in the country,” she says.
“I cannot speak enough about my specialty, my education at UW School of Medicine and the opportunity the Army gave me to serve the country I adopted,” says Kumar. “I started with the idea of being a good doctor who would do her best. But my life has unfolded in a much bigger and better way than I could have expected.”