Ricky (left) and Jamie Dhaliwal
(May 27, 2011) The Dhaliwal brothers both made history when they graduated this week: Ramnik "Ricky" Dhaliwal by becoming the first University of Colorado student to earn a medical and law degree simultaneously, and Jasmeet "Jamie" Dhaliwal by being one of the first two medical students to also graduate with a master of public health degree.
But the brothers take the accomplishments in stride, saying they pale in comparison to those of friends and family. “We both just know so many people who have done amazing things,” Jamie says.
Leading the list? The answer comes in tandem.
“Our parents have the most amazing story,” Ricky, 30, says.
“They both grew up in rural India,” Jamie, 27, says.
“They came from family farms with no electricity or water initially,” Ricky said.
“He was the first in the village to go to college,” Jamie says.
“All the family pitched in together to send him to college to become an engineer,” Ricky says.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Jamie says.
“We’ve never been through anything close to what they’ve been through,” Ricky says.
Growing up mainly in Rochester, NY, and Fort Collins, the brothers left Colorado for undergraduate degrees, Jamie to Harvard and Ricky to George Washington University. Ricky detoured into computer technology before starting law school at CU in 2005 and medical school in 2007; meanwhile Jamie went straight into med school in 2006.
The brothers with their sister, who hooded them in Friday's
Both have spent long spells visiting family in India; Ricky just took his fiancé and fellow med school graduate, Danielle Shimek, there for four weeks, and Jamie credits a six-week visit for helping him overcome a bad case of medical school burnout.
“You get so concerned about things that you lose perspective, and I lost my perspective on why I was in medical school,” he says.
“It was good for you to go,” Ricky says.
“There is nothing going on there,” Jamie says of the village. “I mean nothing. That was good. The things I was worried about when I went there, I am not worried about anymore.”
Both their parents were interested in medicine: their mother received her master's degree in India and planned to go into psychology until she emigrated, and their father would have become a doctor, but “at the time engineering was what you did to be successful," Jamie says.
He often encouraged his three children to enter medicine. All did – their older sister is an optometrist.
So, which of the brothers was the first one to decide to go to medical school?
Ricky: “Yeah, I was.”
Jamie looks skeptical. A debate ensues.
Finally, Ricky cedes the point: “Oh, yeah, you were first.”
“I have always wanted to go to medical school,” Jamie says, sealing the debate.
So this means that they’ve been studying medicine, law and public health for a total of 11 years between them, they have lived together and studied together but never discussed this?
The Dhaliwal brothers
No, both shake their heads.
You’re not very competitive, are you?
“We have our own niches,” Jamie explains.
Jamie is completing an internal medicine internship at the CU Internal Medicine Residency Program after recently switching his specialty from ophthalmology to emergency medicine. Ricky and Danielle will move after a June wedding to Minneapolis, where he'll do his residency in emergency and internal medicine. His hope is to become an emergency medicine doctor with a focus on critical care and policy work. He likes politics, something Jamie eschews, and has worked on legislation through the leadership and advocacy program (LEADS).
They were always in different classes through medical school so they weren’t able to study their lessons together. “I would bounce questions off him since he was a year ahead,” Ricky says. “He was the older brother for a while. But it flipped this year when he switched to emergency medicine. “
When Jamie took a year off between his third and fourth year to get a master’s in public health, Ricky caught up and now they’re graduating together. That’s when a little fraternal competition shows up.
"Ricky was super, super excited that they were going to graduate at the same time," says Danielle, who will specialize in pediatrics. "But I don't think he realized Jamie would graduate first."
Alphabetically, Jamie will walk right before Ricky.
“I’ll be the family’s first physician,” Jamie teases.
“I complained about it (to Student Affairs),” Ricky says, shaking his head and laughing along. “I said, ‘but I’m older!’ But it didn’t matter. He’s going to go first.”