Anywhere we go, there’s going to be a need of some kind. Food, water, love, connection, education — the list goes on and on.
Growing up in Andhra Pradesh, India, Dr. Srikant Nannapaneni saw a great need in his community: oncology doctors. To remedy that, he came to the United States to study medicine.
Journey to medicine
In India, it isn’t as simple as choosing a career and going for it.
Nannapaneni and everyone in his age group had to take a test that would then rank them. With hard work, he made it in the top 1,500 of 65,000. As they were ranked, they were given the careers they chose.
Headed to the United States
After Nannapaneni graduated with his medical degree in India, he decided to pursue oncology in the United States, something he says was very difficult. In addition to getting to the U.S., he had to do several exams and work out licensing issues for his degree to be able to practice medicine
“Institution wise, and cost of living wise, I think Missouri State and Springfield made the most sense to me,” Nannapaneni said. “It was like, right place right time that I ended up in Springfield, Missouri.”
In December 2005, Nannapeneni stepped off an airplane to start his life in Springfield. Members from the Indian Student Association and Association of International Students both came to pick him up and realized he had nowhere to go. Luckily, they knew of two Indian men who needed a roommate. They dropped Nannapaneni off, and much to everyone’s surprise, Nannapaneni had gone to pre-med school with them six years earlier.
At Missouri State
Nannapaneni decided he wanted to work on a master’s in biology with an emphasis in molecular biology, specifically in research. There were only a couple problems. One problem: His mentor, Dr. Kyoungtae Kim, was new to the department, so he didn’t have a lab.
The second problem: Nannapaneni had not done very much research, so the whole process was new to him. He was Kim’s first graduate student at Missouri State. By the time Nannapaneni left, the lab had grown to three graduate students.
Kim, now the associate dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences, established a lab from scratch. Nannapaneni and Kim worked together to build a research agenda and eventually built the lab to what exists today.
Dr. Paul Durham, director of cell biology and the Center for Biomedical and Life Sciences, also contributed to the lab, letting them borrow equipment from his lab. This spurred a relationship. Durham was eventually Nannapaneni’s thesis adviser.
Dr. Tom Tomasi, professor of biology, also assisted Nannapaneni’s Missouri State journey by proofreading his thesis. Tomasi has a sign on his door that inspired Nannapaneni, saying, “To find the right answers, we have to ask the right questions.”
“But first we have to learn how to ask the right questions,” Nannapaneni said, laughing.
“I think the most important thing I learned at Missouri State was critical thinking, analytical thinking. I think that’s something that was missing from my prior education,” Nannapaneni said.
After Nannapaneni graduated from Missouri State, he went to Albert Einstein College of Medicine as a research technician, followed by his internal medicine residency and hematology-oncology fellowship at Maimonides Medical Center in New York.
Time at Cox
Nannapaneni is board certified in medical oncology, hematology and internal medicine. He has been working for Cox Health since Aug. 2016.
A typical day for him at the hospital is rounding patients no later than 7 a.m., managing patients with cancer and blood disorders in clinic, supervising and ordering chemotherapy, followed by a final walk through the hospital to check on his patients before he goes home to his family.
“If my patient is at the hospital, I go see them,” Nannapaneni said.
Dr. Nannapaneni is one of the participating physicians in Cancer Research for the Ozarks.
“I can enroll a patient into national clinical trials including those sponsored by National Cancer Institute,” Nannapaneni said.
This means that patients in the Ozarks have access to clinical trials all over the United States.
He also runs a malignant hematology clinic in Branson twice a month.
Nannapaneni has been in the U.S. for more than 12 years, but he hasn’t forgotten why he came here.
In the future, he hopes to be involved in improving cancer care in India.
Nannapaneni also wants to come back to Missouri State and pursue a master’s in health administration.
For now, his focus is on building a robust cancer care clinic at Cox Health in Springfield.