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Caring for patients is a family affair for one St. Luke’s family


St. Luke’s University Health Network has a top-notch medical school and an expanding residency program. The network is built on a sense of family and a foundation of relationships – qualities showcased by the Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine.

“Our son Anshul was one of the students in the inaugural class here. He went to undergrad at Johns Hopkins and was accepted into a number of medical schools, but he chose to come here,” said Dr. Sanjiv Agarwala, who is chief of medical oncology and hematology at St. Luke’s Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

Anshul is currently a third-year orthopedic resident, but the family connection to St. Luke’s and its school of medicine extends even further:

Dr. Meena Agarwala, a St. Luke’s internist who performs both inpatient care with the internal medicine residents and outpatient primary care, is Sanjiv’s wife. And their daughter, Saira, is in her second year of medical school now studying in Bethlehem after completing her first year in Philadelphia at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the Lehigh Valley’s first and only medical school campus 2011. The network also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 28 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 226 residents.

Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is a major teaching hospital – the only one in the Greater Lehigh Valley to be designated as a 100 Top Hospital by IBM Watson Health. Collectively, St. Luke’s various education programs serve as a critical source of medical talent for central-eastern Pennsylvania, helping the region’s hospitals to be staffed despite a nationwide physician shortage.

The Agarwala family is doing more than its share.

Before arriving at St. Luke’s, when Sanjiv was on the staff at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, he was invited to visit the network.

“I was thinking about making a change and trying to go to a new place to start a program,” he said, “and my colleague here now, Dr. Lee Riley, suggested I come and take a look here. When I did, I met some great people and saw the opportunity to do something I really liked.”

Anshul was already at Johns Hopkins, so he didn’t make that initial family move in 2008, but Saira enrolled at Moravian Academy, and from there went on to George Washington, took a year off after graduation to evaluate her life opportunities, and decided first on medicine and then on St. Luke’s.

“My brother actually went there and was pretty convincing about it,” Saira said.

“It’s a very appealing program,” she added. “It’s a small class size of about 30 and very conducive to learning. You get a lot of face time with your attendings early on so you have that type of professional relationship.”

Meena, who is also on faculty, said St. Luke’s students share a real sense of belonging. “It’s a smaller school with a more intimate setting,” she said. “The classroom teachers are more senior physicians.

Everyone in the school is dedicated to improving the school. There’s a real sense of pride.”

The Agarwalas support the medical school another way as well – as contributors to the Temple/St. Luke’s Scholarship Fund.

“A medical school is the one thing the Lehigh Valley didn’t have,” Meena said. “But now it does thanks to St. Luke’s. The Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine encourages and enables area students who want to stay here for their medical training. … Having a local medical school makes becoming a doctor seem more achievable.”

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