Bobbie Kumar skipped the third grade. Based on her test scores, she could have skipped fourth and fifth right along with it, but her mother worried she’d be too young. This impressively academic girl turned into a smart and empathetic physician who keeps not only her family, but her family of patients, at the center of her life.
From India to the United States
Bobbie Vinila Kumar was born in Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India on August 22, 1983. Her parents, Vasantha and Vinod Kumar, moved the family, including her 9-year old sister, Vinitha, to Detroit when Bobbie was 9 months old. The Kumars had aunts, uncles and cousins living in the Detroit area who had sponsored one family unit after another as they immigrated to the US. Bobbie remembers the warm and close family connections of her childhood, punctuated with many family visits between Detroit and Chicago. Her nuclear family was “not a typical nuclear family,” she says, in that they often hosted family members who needed a landing spot for life transitions.
Her parents worked hard to provide for Bobbie and her sister. Her mother had been a practicing physician in India, but was not able to practice medicine in the United States. She worked as an “early physician’s assistant” and a teacher instead. Similarly, her father was licensed as a mechanical engineer in India but ended up working as a engineering technician while simultaneously taking classes for his certification.
They worked hard all week, but weekends were for family: "Saturday outings, and Sundays for church and relaxation.” The Kumars lived in a few different homes in Detroit, but Bobbie considers Grosse Pointe to be her childhood home and the place she spent the most time.
Finding her path: lacrosse and medicine
Bobbie continued to excel academically. A self-described book worm and member of the Science Olympiad, she surprised even herself when she tried out for the new high school lacrosse team and found she excelled at that too! As a captain of the team, Bobbie was a two-time state champion. In between all those activities, Bobbie worked hard picking up jobs babysitting and at the local pizza parlor. “I worked from the time I was 14 to going to med school,” she says.
Bobbie says she struggled to fit in as a teenager. “My family embraced Indian culture and put it into our lives. We ate Indian food, had Indian influenced outfits. I had a lot of apprehension to share that side of me,” says Bobbie. Additionally, she felt disconnected from her wealthy suburban schoolmates because her family could not provide her with a fancy car or an allowance. “Everything I wanted I had to figure out how to pay for.”
Bobbie was offered a lacrosse scholarship at University of Maryland, but her mother would not allow her to go because she thought Bobbie was too young. Instead, she attended Wayne State University locally. She started in Computer Science but “hated my first class” and switched to sociology with pre-med as a backup. In her third year at Wayne State, her father became acutely ill with liver disease. “He went from totally healthy to a coma in 6 weeks.” Her father passed away soon after.
This was the turning point for Bobbie to commit to medicine. “I wanted to figure out these confusing cases and help people at their most vulnerable.” She earned her BA in sociology from Wayne State and then went on to medical school at St. Christopher’s in London. Later, she would return back to school again to earn her MBA from Auburn, an accomplishment of which she is proud. “It was totally out of my wheelhouse,” she says.
Building a career and a family
Bobbie did an internship in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 90 miles from Pittsburgh in a rural area. The experience inspired her to apply for a residency in family medicine. For her residency Bobbie lived in Savannah, Georgia and served as co-chief resident of Memorial University Medical Center. After residency, the health system created a practice for Bobbie and her best friend and co-chief resident. Bobbie was able to be as innovative and patient-focused as she likes to be, and the practice was very successful.
During her residency, Bobbie met her now husband, Joshua, at a chocolate shop in 2011. They talked for four hours over a dulce de leche cheesecake and were married a year and a half later on May 4, 2013.
Joshua wanted to grow his career in aerospace, so Bobbie agreed to leave her practice and move to Seattle where Joshua could pursue work in his field. Bobbie took a position at a health system which would prove to be the most challenging of her career. “I didn’t think the patients deserved the care they were getting. I had a lot of internal conflict about what I felt was right when treating a patient versus what was expected of me by the health system,” she says of the experience.
After leaving that job, she found Vituity, and was drawn to its focus on compassionate, high quality care. As she was starting with Vituity, she found out she was pregnant with her son, Jonah, who is now 3.5 years old.
Along the way, Bobbie and her family moved to Dallas to be closer to Bobbie’s sister and mother, and Joshua's mother and sister soon followed. Bobbie is expecting twins in December, and she loves having her mom nearby. Her mom both gives help and receives help from Bobbie and Joshua, even living with them part-time in their home.
Bobbie loves the flexibility she has to see her family and work whenever she is needed by either throughout the day. “It’s less about balance and more about blend,” she says.