Out There: Part 1 (An Interview Series)

Out There: Part 1

By Janie Cao
Edited by Mary Abramczuk

I met Thanos Rossopoulos through a community service leadership program. As with almost everyone I’ve met, I stereotyped him at first glance (subconsciously, of course). I thought that he was going to be like most other first-year medical students I’d met before—smart, hardworking, and…pretty fresh from college. And guess what? I was only mostly right.

The first time I heard him share his story, we were at a group dinner. I was sitting too far away to hear everything but at the perfect distance to want more. He said something about ‘7 gap years,’ the oil and gas industry, and living in India. That was enough to nag at my curiosity, so I unashamedly asked for an encore. He graciously obliged.

Like many people in their early twenties, Thanos wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do with his life when college graduation arrived too soon. He remembered that at the time, he’d just wanted to do something exciting, something risky, something “radical.” So when they offered him an engineering job that would put him in the oil rigs of India for one and a half years, he said yes. There, for the first time in his life, Thanos stared into the glare of deprivation. Not really what he wanted, but perhaps what he really needed.

Growing up in Orange County, California, he had been raised in a privileged “bubble,” as he called his sheltered childhood. But he didn’t know how sheltered he was until he stepped foot into India, where he saw mansions and slums coexisting side by side, all in broad daylight. “It took India to force me to face inequality,” Thanos reflected, “and it didn’t sit with me well.” What he made sound like ‘just a slightly uncomfortable feeling’ was in fact the beginning of a tenacious zeal to alleviate human suffering. He was a tad modest.

The impact of those years in India manifested powerfully after he returned home. Whereas in the past, he did not even know to look for inequality, now that was all he could see around him. So, what did Thanos do next? What would you have done?

To be continued…

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Photo Caption: "...Taking a stroll in the morning before my shift on the oil rig. If you look closely out in the distance you see the top part of the oil rig I worked on behind the trees. This was from a small village called Radhapur in the state of West Bengal. Very beautiful place." -Thanos Rossopoulos

Janie Cao

Janie is a medical student at UT Southwestern Medical Center who is working to become a child psychiatrist. She is particularly concerned with preventive mental health. When not learning medicine, she tries to learn as much as she can about other subjects because she believes that everything is interrelated and very interesting. She also enjoys participating in the arts--all forms pretty much. In the future, she aims to make this world a safer place via creativity and collaboration. Updated 03.21.2018

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