A Star in the Making

At 13 years old, Rohit Gupta felt helpless, watching his father spend days in bed during the lowest point in his battle with depression. Gupta feared not only for the health of his father but of their family.

This experience turned Gupta’s mission to become a doctor into a personal one. As Gupta’s father sought medical treatment, he leaned on his family and friends for support. A conversation between Gupta and his father seemed trivial on the surface but Gupta later learned it had given his father the inspiration he needed to keep fighting. “You are important to me,” Gupta told his father. “And I want you to teach me how to drive.”

Those words became his father’s strength, a humbling realization for Gupta. His father’s resilience ignited Gupta’s interest in psychiatry. He witnessed firsthand the power psychiatrists hold in caring for patients and showing compassion. He hopes to connect to patients’ distress and provide wholesome mental health treatment when he becomes a doctor.

Gupta received a 2014 Most Valuable Student scholarship. It allowed him to attend his dream school, Rice University, where he studied biochemistry and cell biology. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class and received two departmental awards.

The first was for outstanding teaching. After Gupta received only one of two A+ grades ever in Biosciences Professor Charles Stewart’s course, Stewart invited Gupta to be a teaching assistant and lead a 50-student session in understanding the complex biochemistry and genetic concepts.

“He has the drive, motivation, and enthusiasm that suggest he will succeed at whatever endeavors he pursues,” Stewart says.

The other award was for outstanding research. As an undergraduate, Gupta participated in several studies ranging from cancer research to mental health. In 2013, he led a study investigating the synergistic effects of chemotherapies and radiation on one of the deadliest subsets of head and neck cancer under the guidance of Dr. Barbara Frederick. They recently submitted to Oncotarget, a cancer research journal, a large manuscript detailing his findings from the project.

Gupta is currently leading a project on pediatric cancer research under Dr. Rachel Rau, assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Gupta has presented this project at numerous conferences and is currently working on submitting it to a major leukemia publication. Rau calls Gupta “a star in the making,” a sentiment it seems anyone who has had the privilege of working with him would share.

During his undergraduate years, Gupta complemented his studies with his passions. One of those passions was volunteering to respond to campus medical emergencies as an EMT-intermediate for the Rice University Emergency Medical Services. After 400 hours of volunteering as an EMT, Gupta understands the impact his decisions have on patients’ lives, some of which are irreparable.

Beyond medical attention, Gupta helped others through tutoring. At Rice University, he founded RAW-Guidance, a non-profit organization that provides free tutoring to underserved kids whose families can’t afford hiring a tutor. Gupta has taught more than 200 students, elementary to college. He appreciates the patience it has taught him, and the trust and respect he has built with students over the years.

“My volunteer experiences have prepared and inspired me to become a doctor who is a companion first and a physician second,” Gupta says.

Gupta’s commitment to service doesn’t stop there. He also volunteered in the Emergency Center of Ben Taub Hospital, which serves predominantly low-income patients and families. Beyond learning about the medical and social resources available to low-income and vulnerable patients, Gupta says it taught him how to holistically treat and effectively communicate with patients from diverse backgrounds.

Gupta poured himself into these experiences and spent many hours building his craft, a privilege he says he couldn’t have afforded without the Elks.

“As an Elks scholar, I had the opportunity to freely pursue extracurricular and volunteer activities that have contributed to my character and abilities as a future health-care provider,” Gupta says.

Gupta is studying psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. He’s excited to continue reaching for the stars as a member of the Elks family, a family built on scholars who are “achieving amazing goals, committing themselves to service, and making global changes.”

“Just like every other Elks scholar, I will continue to put the good of others in front of my own as I begin my journey into the field of medicine,” Gupta says. “I know the values of caring and sharing instilled in the Elks family will always resonate with me.”

After losing her husband, Gunther, to a staph infection in November 2009, the late Lee Weigel wanted to improve the quality of healthcare in our country. To realize that goal, she partnered with the Elks National Foundation to endow the Gunther and Lee Weigel Medical School Scholarship, which helps Elks scholars pursue careers in medicine.

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