South Charlotte

Judy Raghavan knows cancer doctor's 'intellectual, soft side'

Judy Raghavan sits at the Caribou Coffee on Rea Road looking slightly apprehensive.

The tables are turned for her today.

Usually, the interviews are with her husband, Dr. Derek Raghavan, president of the new Levine Cancer Institute.

Today she'll be the one talking.

The Raghavans' marriage of four and a half years is one of opposite professional interests. Her area of expertise is fashion merchandising. In the past she has worked with small boutiques, freshening the inventory and presenting new, attractive displays.

"I'm a boring cancer researcher, administrator and physician," said Derek Raghavan via email from Germany; he says it's Judy's perspective that provides him with a "quiet reality check."

The Raghavans moved to the Quail Hollow area in March, and Derek Raghavan, 61, officially took over the helm of the LCI in early April. With the help of a $20 million grant from the Leon Levine Foundation, the Carolinas Healthcare System is building the new facility at the main Carolinas Medical Center campus to treat rare and complex cancers and provide research.

Judy smiles when asked to talk about her life with a world-famous cancer specialist. She refers to when they first met in Weston, Fla., and had their first date. She recalls he introduced himself as "just Derek."

She didn't have the slightest idea of his professional background but was smitten with his self-assured manner and great sense of humor, she said. "I fell in love with Derek right away," she said. "I saw the intellectual, soft side of him. He's extremely caring."

As she got to know more about him, she learned he was incredibly passionate about his work as well as being very good at it. Derek Raghavan, who was born in Buenos Aires and educated in Australia, is the former president of the Taussig Cancer Center of the Cleveland Clinic. He chose to move to Charlotte because of great potential he envisioned for the facility to move to the forefront of cancer treatment.

Judy Raghavan said her husband is a workaholic who took his laptop and smartphone on a vacation cruise. "He wasn't at all sure he would like the cruise, but at the end I think he really enjoyed himself."

The Raghavans are a team Charlotte will be hearing from a lot more. As a Florida girl, Judy said, she had a tough time with the Ohio winters. "The weather and people in Charlotte are wonderful," she said.