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Samuel Durairaj

Read about Samuel Durairaj, a second-year Ph.D. student from southern India who’s passionate about his roles as a teacher, researcher and father.

Portrait of Samuel Durairaj

From a young age, Samuel Durairaj’s parents told him that education is an important tool for change. Now, as an award-winning doctoral student at the University of Kansas School of Health Professions, he’s passing the same lesson on to his 6-year-old daughter.

A first-generation college student, Durairaj said, in addition to his parents, his teachers and mentors inspired him to continue pursuing higher education and to become a teacher himself.

“My real liking of teaching started when I was a student, observing my own teachers and the passion they had to teach,” Durairaj said. “We had such a reverence, respect and affection toward our teachers.”

Durairaj is a physical therapist who specializes in neurorehabilitation. Before beginning his doctoral program, he was a clinician and faculty member at Christian Medical College Vellore, a premier teaching hospital in Tamil Nadu, India.

In 2014, Durairaj participated in the Modale Research Fellowship at KU Medical Center, which was created by Mani M. Mani, M.D., a graduate of Christian Medical College Vellore who became a professor of plastic surgery at KU School of Medicine. In 2021, Durairaj returned to campus to begin the Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science degree program at KU Medical Center.

“That’s how I first got this opportunity to come to KU, and that’s when I really thought I could do my Ph.D. at KU,” Durairaj said. “We don’t have many (Ph.D.) opportunities in India.”

Durairaj recently received three prestigious awards from the School of Health Professions: the Bittel Family Leadership Award, Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant and Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Patricia Kluding, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Science and Athletic Training in KU School of Health Professions, said someone winning awards for both teaching and research, like Durairaj did, is unusual.

“Most Ph.D. students choose to be either a research assistant or a teaching assistant in a given semester,” she explained. “It is unusual to do both and very difficult to excel at both roles at the same time.”

Samuel Durairaj and his wife seated with two young children on their lapsWhen Durairaj accepted these awards, it was not just a celebration of his hard work as a doctoral student, but also a celebration of the sacrifices he and his family made to continue his education and the joy of finally having his wife and children back with him after a year apart.

When Durairaj came back to Kansas City in 2021, his family was unable to accompany him because of pandemic-fueled visa delays. At the time, no one knew when, or if, visas would be available.

After a year of waiting and staying connected virtually, Durairaj’s wife and two young children were finally able to secure visas and come to the U.S. in July 2022.

Durairaj plans to spend the next year or two at KU Medical Center, finishing up his doctorate and giving his daughter, Jessica, another winter (or two) to enjoy the Midwestern snow.

“All she wanted to see in Kansas City was the snow because she had never seen the snow before,” Durairaj shared. “Change is challenging — a new country, a new kind of setup. But it’s been a wonderful journey so far.”

Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

University of Kansas Medical Center
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Mailstop 2015
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160
Phone: 913-588-3319
Fax: 913-588-1412