Forming lasting bonds at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM)
A True Bruin Love Story: Drs. Jay and Madhu Agarwal
The year is 1996.
Jay Agarwal, MD, MBA, is a prospective DGSOM medical student excited to attend a recruiting event in Westwood.
Madhu Agarwal, MD, is still Madhu Chopra, a first-year medical student excited to represent DGSOM at a recruiting event in Westwood. (Her preferred mode of transportation to and from the event: Rollerblades.)
This recruiting event marked the first of many meetings between Jay and Madhu, who got married in 2000. Their relationship blossomed gradually in the years after they met. Lucky to have enough free time for sleep, let alone dating, the two busy med students nevertheless found time to form a solid friendship.
Friendship compounded into something more over time thanks to admiration, shared interests, and mutual respect — or as Madhu likes to joke, thanks to her roommate’s persistent campaigning.
“My roommate told me for years I should probably go out with Jay, so I was brainwashed over many years,” she says, adding that it was helpful to be friends before starting a romantic relationship. “You actually know what someone's like before you go to the next level.”
Nurturing their budding relationship as well as their budding medical careers, UCLA provided the perfect setting for Jay and Madhu’s love story.
“Our relationship wouldn't exist today if it wasn't for the school of medicine,” Madhu explains. “We wouldn't have met each other. We wouldn’t have been in the same friend group or experienced the social situations that allowed us to develop a relationship.”
Two Paths Converge at UCLA
Madhu says she was raised on the UCLA campus. As the daughter of UCLA faculty member Inder Chopra, MD, she grew up playing at the Center for Health Sciences building and the on-campus botanical gardens. When the time came to choose a home for her undergraduate and medical education, she explored other options, but ultimately decided she belonged at UCLA.
“Best decision I ever made,” she says. “I met my husband here and our lifelong friends, our family by choice.”
Jay also felt a strong connection to UCLA before he began medical school. His father had undergone multiple surgeries at UCLA centers. Jay deeply appreciated and admired the expertise and compassion that went into his father’s care.
“Coming to UCLA was a long-standing dream for me,” he says. “Being around so many brilliant minds and learning from the best is really what drove me to come here.”
The Couple’s Favorite Bruin Memories
Apart from meeting one another of course, Jay and Madhu agree their best UCLA moments revolve around fantastic people — people they learned from and people who became their lifelong friends.
“It’s a collection of good people and good friends, people that learn from each other and lift each other up,” Madhu says.
They both have vivid memories of faculty members and mentors who made lasting impressions in lecture halls, labs, clinical rotation sites, and other state-of-the-art teaching facilities.
During her undergraduate days, Madhu worked in the lab of pharmacologist and Nobel laureate, Louis J. Ignarro, PhD.
“How many people get taught pharmacology extensively by an excellent professor who also happened to win the Nobel Prize?”
The couple’s collective recollections add up to what they both call a “phenomenal experience.”
Medical-School Friends are Lifelong Friends
Madhu graduated DGSOM in 1999, and Jay followed a year later in 2000. Looking back on medical school, Jay notes that he learned about so much more than medicine.
“DGSOM helped me learn all the clinical aspects of becoming a physician, but it also helped me grow and develop as a person,” he says. “And I think that’s what makes DGSOM so special.”
Growing and developing alongside peers with like-minded passions and interests allowed Jay and Madhu to make connections they’ve not only maintained but also cherished for decades.
“We have a really close group of friends from medical school,” Jay says. “We just happened to sit down at the same table during one of the school’s social events, and more than 20 years later, we’re still friends.”
Bruin Bonding for the Agarwal Family
The year is 2023.
Jay and Madhu have been married for over 20 years. Their careers have flourished in ways neither of them expected when they started.
As Madhu says, “life takes many turns.”
Madhu, who volunteered in pediatric oncology during medical school, now runs a thriving neuro-ophthalmology practice. Jay, who started out as a nephrologist, now serves as the chief medical officer of a nonprofit dialysis company.
“I got busy in practice, and realized I wanted to do something more in leadership,” he explains. “We need to make sure the people trying to fix problems in healthcare know what it’s like to take care of patients and also keep patients at heart when developing changes.”
Jay and Madhu are now also proud Bruin parents. They’re thrilled they can bond with their kids over a shared UCLA connection, and they love seeing bright new beginnings taking root at a place so close to their hearts.
“We’re grateful to UCLA. It has educated us, nurtured us, brought us together, educated our kids, and our friends’ kids,” Madhu says. “It’s not only our beginning, but now it’s also our middle.”