People Residency

Q&A with Theresa Tharakan, T32 resident

Tharakan and family at medical school graduation
Theresa Tharakan, MD, with her sister Elizabeth, mom Tessie, and brother Joseph at her graduation from Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Theresa Tharakan, MD, is a resident in the physician-scientist training (T32) program, which prepares trainees for a successful research career in academic otolaryngology.

What attracted you to WashU’s residency program?

WashU’s friendly residents, broad surgical experience, and research support are what drew me here. 

Theresa Tharakan and boyfriend at a recent wedding
Tharakan and boyfriend Selby Chu, MD, attended a recent wedding in Georgia.

What do you like most about being a trainee here?

The talented faculty and my wonderful co-residents!I feel like I am being prepared well for my career as an otolaryngologist. 

Have you developed a stronger interest in any one sub-specialty?

My research focuses on quality-of-life outcomes such as taste and swallowing in head and neck cancer patients. I work primarily in Dr. Piccirillo’s Clinical Outcomes Research Lab, which focuses on clinical research methodology and has trainees interested in all sub-specialties. I am interested in head and neck surgery, so I enjoy collaborating with the head and neck faculty as well as faculty from medical oncology, radiation oncology, speech language pathology, and nutrition on my projects. 

Theresa on trip to Iceland
Tharakan in front of a glacier on a trip to Iceland.

Can you tell us a little about your childhood and how you developed an interest in becoming a doctor?

I grew up in the Bronx, NY, with an older sister and a younger brother. My parents emigrated from India. My mom, the original Dr. Tharakan, is a maternal-fetal medicine OB/GYN. My dad was an engineer, so I grew up in an environment of science and medicine. I knew as early as middle school that I wanted to be a doctor. I started shadowing my own pediatrician (shout out to Dr. Schiff!) in high school. Other jobs I considered as a child before medicine included interior decorator, painter, architect, and anthropologist. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Tharakan during a 2011 ballroom competition.

When I have the opportunity, my favorite activities are travel, photography, and dancing. Food isn’t technically a hobby, but I enjoy trying restaurants with my boyfriend Selby (who luckily for me also happens to be a very good cook). On a typical day off, you’ll find me hanging out with my co-residents or doing something hands-on like painting, DIYs, or practicing my suturing skills (?).

What television series are you most likely to get caught indulging in?

I love watching comedies of all types and any genre of show that has great character development. Please let me know if you have recommendations. 

What would most surprise your colleagues about you?

I was a competitive ballroom dancer in college, and I dabble in hip hop as well. I’m working on choreography for a friend’s wedding right now!