Student Profile - Serene Kaggal

Music, medicine and multiculturalism meld in choice of pre-med program for LU’s Kaggal

Serene KaggalIt was the choir program and cultural diversity that first drew Serene Kaggal to Lamar University where she planned to double major in vocal performance and psychology. Along the way, her interests have continued to broaden as she has embraced many of the opportunities that have crossed her path.

She participated in the All State Choir as a student in Beaumont’s West Brook H.S., and auditioned at LU. During her sophomore year, she decided to pursue her studies in psychology and minor in biology and chemistry while participating in LU’s pre-medical program and, at the same time, continue her participation in the LU A Cappella Choir. 

While she decided to forego a major in vocal performance, music remains an important part of her life. As a soprano in LU’s A Cappella Choir under the baton of Dr. James Han, director of choral activities, she has found it a positive and engrossing way to relieve stress and reaps the rewards that are worth the time she invested. “LU’s A Cappella Choir is amazing and the music program here is just terrific,” she said, praising both the quality and individual attention given. “I have learned to perform music I never would have been able to do without such great instruction,” she said. Off campus, she serves under scholarship at Beaumont’s Wesley United Methodist Church singing in the traditional services.

Recently selected to serve as a LU Ambassador, the Reaud Honors College student will represent the university at events during the coming year. Her honors include being named to the President’s List and service as a supplemental instructor for Biology I and II students in LU’s Student Tutoring and Retention Services (STARS) program.

The multiculturalism evident at LU was one of the main draws for Kaggal when selecting a university. “I like surrounding myself with diversity, being with people with similar interests yet with different backgrounds,” she said. She actively supports that outlook as president of the Multicultural Greek Council, and as the Multicultural Student Representative for the Reaud Honors College. “It’s exciting to work with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Dr. John Bello-Ogunu.”

The spark of Kaggal’s desire to express her passion for service through medicine comes from personal experience. Just prior to beginning the 8th grade – a worrisome and turbulent time for many young persons – she fell very ill following a visit to family in India. Hospitalized, frightened and concerned as doctors discussed a number of possibly grave maladies, it was her family doctor who approached the situation for a different angle.

“Dr. Grigory Rodonaia gave so much attention to me,” she recalls. “He was talking to me more as a person than as a patient. That’s what sparked my interest in pursuing a medical career.” Rodonaia deduced that she was suffering from typhoid fever – a disease not commonly seen in the industrialized world – and helped her on the path to recovery.

“I’ve always tried to help others as a volunteer,” she said, and sees service as a healthcare provider as an extension of that mindset. “Getting to really know a patient, treating them and helping them feel better – you become their hero, that person they can confide in.”

She volunteered with Rodonaia Family Medicine and Aesthetics in Beaumont, learning much of the “logistical part, working with the nurses and observing the patient and doctor interaction.” 

Now, she has her sights on becoming a pediatrician who works with children with great empathy and compassion, “getting to know them and their interests, and best of all . . . making them smile,” she said.

“The science is amazing,” she said. “So much is happening in medical research (to advance treatments), but actually being there, both personally and emotionally, for the patient remains incredibly important. As a doctor one day, that’s what I hope to do.”

Kaggal also is grateful for the opportunities she has received in the pre-med program at Lamar University. “The pre-med program at LU is really good which brings together knowledgeable staff and one-on-one interaction opportunities that enhances learning,” she said. “I am learning a lot and will be able to apply that information in preparation for the MCAT and in my other classes as well.”

Her volunteer efforts on- and off-campus are extensive and include service with the Indian Association of Southeast Texas (IAST), Honors Student Association, A Cappella Choir, American Medical Student Association, Sigma Sigma Rho Sorority, Inc., Multicultural Greek Council, and LUNow. She has volunteered in the community with the Southeast Texas Food Bank, Stable Spirits, and at numerous IAST events.

She is an intern for the Board of Directors of The Arc of Greater Beaumont, an organization serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As co-chair of its annual Buddy Walk, she helps promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

She has been supported in her studies through the Class of 1956 Scholarship, the Gordon Gray Memorial Scholarship, and the Fred and Mary Koch Scholarship. On track to graduate in Spring 2019, she is also interested in LU’s MBA program, with an eye toward hospital administration, as a way to gain knowledge that would be helpful in navigating the dynamic changes taking place in the healthcare field.