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      Harvard-trained doctor delivers compassionate care for patients at RGA

      Dr. Thukral

      Digestive health conditions can often be challenging to treat. It was that desire to be challenged that led Dr. Chandrashekhar "Bob" Thukral to specialize in the field, a journey that took him from Chicago to Boston to Rockford Gastroenterology Associates.

      Dr. Thukral was born in India and moved to the United States at age 18 for college. He earned a Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and completed his medical degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The research component of his training was meaningful but it also led him to where he is today.

      "As I was finishing my Ph.D., I realized I'm more of a people person. I wanted more direct contact with patients. I'm so glad I made that jump," he recalled.

      From Chicago, Dr. Thukral traveled to Boston for his postgraduate medical training at the renowned Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, where here he did his residency and internship in Internal Medicine, followed by his specialty training in Gastroenterology. The "BI," as it is affectionately called by its alumni, is also where fellow RGA physicians Dr. Sunil Patel and Dr. Sumeet Tewani trained.

      During his residency, Dr. Thukral recognized that he wanted to specialize his training and was interested in gastroenterology because it involved working with so many different organs in the body. "I started spending time with more GI people, and most of them had similar personalities and interests."

      He and his wife, Susan Maher, lived in Boston for about seven years. They met in graduate school where she earned her Ph.D. in Public Health. She was from the Chicago area, and their son was 2 years old when they moved out east. Though they'd established strong connections to friends and the medical community there, they missed the family ties in the Midwest.

      While at Harvard, Dr. Thukral learned about RGA through one of his mentors. RGA physicians had just completed a landmark study about colonoscopy withdrawal times that appeared in the 2006 New England Journal of Medicine. So, he emailed the practice to inquire about a position.

      The rest, as they say, is history.

      "Life is all about timing," he said. "RGA happened to be looking for a physician at the time. (Dr. Joseph Vicari) gave me a call. I still remember that first trip from Boston to O'Hare. I loved meeting the guys, and it seemed like such a phenomenal practice – a perfect balance of practicing good medicine and doing research at the medical school while still placing an emphasis on family time."

      Dr. Thukral joined RGA in 2007 and became the organization's president in 2014. He cares for patients with a wide variety of gastrointestinal and liver disorders and has a special interest in providing comprehensive care for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

      He remains actively involved in clinical research and has collaborated with researchers at Harvard Medical School to study patients with IBD. He said during the last decade, new generations of IBD medications have allowed for more effective, targeted therapy.

      "I do like a challenge, and it's difficult to treat so many facets of Crohn's and colitis," he said. "There's not a magic pill to make everything better. These are chronic diseases that require tremendous commitment and care."

      In addition to his robust practice at RGA, Dr. Thukral stays involved in many ways outside of work to advance the GI field. He's a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, where he's involved with research and is a member of the Student Promotions Committee. He is a fellow of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), where he previously served on the Budget and International Committees and is a founding member of the ASGE Recognized Industry Associate (ARIA) taskforce, which designs and teaches training programs for industry representatives.

      "There is such a respect for RGA at a national level," he said. "It makes you very proud and honored to be part of this really great organization.

      "Inside and out, you can tell there is such a concern for staff. There's a sense of family. I'm truly blessed to be part of a place where everybody looks out for each other."

      Away from work, Dr. Thukral and Maher live in Rockford, and their son attends college in Indiana. They love to travel and definitely fit the definition of "foodies." Dr. Thukral was featured on an episode of the Chicago-based restaurant review series "Check, Please!" showing off some of Rockford's finest eateries and attractions.

      They also love cheering on their favorite Boston sports teams, including the New England Patriots and the Red Sox.