In Memoriam: Navdeep Kang

Fourth-year medical student remembered for his humble intelligence, love of learning.
Kang and Akman
Vice President for Health Affairs and SMHS Dean Jeffrey S. Akman (left) and M.D. student Navdeep Kang.
August 30, 2014

By Lauren Ingeno

Navdeep Kang, known simply as “Nav” to his friends, had a difficult time choosing a medical specialty. The exceptionally bright student had a wide range of academic interests and a passion for learning. But he eventually gravitated toward psychiatry—a discipline that seemed to best suit his warm, attentive personality.

“He had a unique skill in really connecting with patients, getting them to trust and open up to him,” said William Schroth, associate dean for administration at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).

The fourth-year SMHS medical student from Sewickley, Pa., died Wednesday when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle in Potomac, Md.  

Mr. Kang graduated magna cum laude from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 2011. He received a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in French literature and language. He was admitted into the SMHS M.D. class as an undergraduate through the school’s Early Selection program. 

His death was a particularly painful loss for the 2015 M.D. class, a tight-knit group of about 180 students.

“Nav was a wonderfully caring, engaging person, an incredibly bright light in our school, whose absence will leave a tremendous hole in our community,” Vice President for Health Affairs and SMHS Dean Jeffrey S. Akman said in a message sent to the SMHS community on Thursday.

Dr. Schroth, who served as a career adviser for Mr. Kang during his three years studying medicine, described his student as “disarmingly smart” yet humble.

“It sometimes surprised people how brilliant he really was because he was so low-key and never flaunted anything,” he said.

Despite his humility, Mr. Kang was eager to help and to share his knowledge with others. Friends, professors and classmates of Mr. Kang gathered in Walter G. Ross Hall on Thursday to remember the 25-year-old’s life. During the gathering, Mr. Kang’s friends recalled how they first met Mr. Kang in a gross anatomy course. More advanced than his peers, he made an effort to ensure his classmates learned all the material thoroughly.

“He was just that kind of guy that was very helpful and wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page,” said fellow fourth-year M.D. student Jacob Jones.

Mr. Jones met Mr. Kang during their freshman year at GW and was elated when they both were admitted to SMHS. He said Mr. Kang was an “open book” and a great listener. And while the two friends spent hours studying together, Mr. Kang made sure to enjoy the lighter side of life. He woke up early mornings to meditate and would often take breaks in between classes to go on long runs because that’s what “made him happy,” Mr. Jones said.

“He was always saying things like, ‘Stop studying so much, Jake. You need to have some fun and take care of yourself,’” Mr. Jones said. “His outlook on life was just great.”

Grief counselors in the University Counseling Center (UCC) are available for students. The UCC can be accessed in person during business hours, by phone at 202-994-5300 or via the center’s website.