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Community Mourns Cancer Doctor

Viswanathan Rajaraman, M.D. and his wife, Mary J. Sundaram died in a plane crash Sunday morning

Sympathies are pouring in for a prominent and beloved neurosurgeon and his wife who were killed in a plane crash on Father's Day. 

Viswanathan Rajaraman, M.D. and his wife, Mary J. Sundaram were returning home from their daughter's graduation at Georgetown University, when they stopped in Columbus, Ohio to refuel their 2008 Cirrus CR22 plane. Upon take off, shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday, the plane caught fire and crashed east of the runway at Rickenbacker International Airport.  The couple was pronounced dead at the scene.

"This is a terrible loss," a patient of the popular neuro-oncologist told Patch. "Dr. Raj was a great doctor and really connected with his patients."

"He took the time to explain a diagnosis and the recommended treatment to me in layman's terms that I could understand," she said. "He was also just a genuinely nice person. I could tell he really cared about you and wanted the best outcome possible for all of his patients."

His office displayed his love of his family, with photos of his wife and daughter proudly displayed around the room, she said.

Dr. Raj was Chief of Neurooncology at the Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center and headed Neurooncology at Valley Hospital, in Ridgewood. He earned his medical degree from University of Madras, India. 

Sundaram was also a doctor who left her obstetrician practice after having their daughter, Kaavya Viswanathan (who took her father's first name as her last name, as is customary in some Indian families.) 

The family moved to the U.K., where Dr. Raj practiced neurosurgery in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, before moving to the United States in 1994 for a fellowship at the Christ Hospital and Mayfield Neurological Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“Dr. Rajaraman was a joyful person who was always willing to collaborate, to conduct research and to write journal articles,” said John M. Tew, Jr., MD, a Mayfield neurosurgeon who was Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery during Dr. Rajaraman’s fellowship. “He came to us as a fully trained neurosurgeon, and he was a fine contributor to our program during the 18 months he was here. We followed his career with great interest and pride.”

“Vishy’s energy, enthusiasm and affability were infectious, and his positive spirit served us all,” added Jeffrey T. Keller, PhD, Director of the Goodyear Microsurgery Laboratory and Associate Director of the Neurosurgery Residency Training Program at UC. “He was a kind person, even under duress.” 

Rajaraman also served as Chief Resident at North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University and at University Hospital, at UMDNJ, Newark, before getting a fellowship in surgical Neurooncology at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, according to North Jersey Brain & Spine.

The couple is survived by their only child. Viswanathan, who reportedly earned her law degree this weekend, declined media interviews upon the news of her parents' accident. As of Monday morning, funeral arrangements had not been announced.

This article was updated from its original publication late Monday night.

Bernadette Walsh June 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM
Not sure why Patch felt compelled to add the information about their daughter in this article. Does not seem appropriate to me.
Dominick Nizza June 20, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Bernadette Walsh perhaps, the monitoring of Patch topic posts should should be left to the Patch district supervisors or topic editor. Most writers, editors and commentators all "piggy back" off other news sources to expand their own writings. Relax, you as a Village Council member, is also busy with its own PR postings, that many us also monitor, and may not 'seem appropriate'.
Boyd A. Loving June 20, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Despite the extremely tragic nature of this incident, it is keeping with accepted practice that the press reported news worthy background information regarding a member of the couple's immediate family. This same information was reported in The Record, The Star Ledger, posted on The Associated Press' web site, and several other news sources.
Bernadette Walsh June 20, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Still disagree with both of you and Patch.
Dominick Nizza June 20, 2011 at 07:13 PM
Boyd A. Loving, thanks for the added info sources. Patch is reluctant to post links from "their competition" and asked I not do so. But, those "other sources" were fairly posted and shared by their professional writers with excellent credentials. Sad commentary isn't it? After all, commentators (that use their real names) here are not being paid by Patch. That's why Local Blogs do so well sometimes.
Boyd A. Loving June 20, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Dom: Virtually every on line article regrarding this tragic crash that I checked contained the same background information about the couple's daughter. As I previously noted, this is a routine practice, most likely taught in the best journalism schools. Boyd
RAY TARINO June 21, 2011 at 03:45 AM
The facts leading up to this tragic plane crash were reported. The story could have ended with the refueling in Ohio, or more information about the Doctor & Valley Hospital. To also include something that happened to their daughter 4 1/2 years ago makes no sense. That sensitive & irrelevant information should have been edited from this story. Ray Tarino

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