The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt community, family members remember senior Jay Patel

Patel battled cancer for a year and a half while remaining committed to his studies and extracurricular activities.
Tasfia Alam
The wide variety of trees found on campus, as captured on Oct. 4, 2022 (Hustler Multimedia/Tasfia Alam)

Undergraduate student Jay Patel passed away on Nov. 30, 2022, after battling cancer for a year and a half. He was 23 years old. Patel is survived by his mother Rekha Patel and his father Hasmukh Patel who reside in Hendersonville, TN. 

“He lived by three things in his life. Honesty, critical thinking and being a good human being,” Rekha Patel said. “He made sure that he always did these three things. He just always kept people around him happy.”

A photo of Jay Patel. Photo courtesy of Rekha Patel.
A photo of senior Jay Patel. Photo courtesy of Rekha Patel. (Rekha Patel)

Patel was majoring in economics in the College of Arts and Sciences on the premed track.  He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, on Feb. 8, 2021. According to his mother, Patel underwent multiple surgeries and was in and out of treatment, but over the year and a half, retained one goal: to graduate college. 

“The first surgery happened, and just the day after the surgery, I remember him asking the doctor ‘can I finish my graduation?’” Rekha Patel said. “He was so sick he couldn’t walk, but that was what he asked, even when Dr. Katie [Patel’s doctor] told him that he has two years left of his life. And when the doctor said that it was incurable…I was like, ‘who in the world would think to graduate at this moment?’” 

His mother first realized Patel was suffering from muscle pain in November 2020 when they saw each other during Thanksgiving break. Per his mother, student health initially thought he was suffering from muscle spasms, but eventually decided to give him a CT scan in February after he continued to complain of pain. Rekha described Patel’s cancer as “a very aggressive kind.” 

“I just want to tell the doctors that I don’t blame anybody, but I at least want to give awareness for the college to take it seriously,” Rekha said. “If any kids come [to the doctor] with such a thing, they need to do a CT scan or something. I’m not a person to blame because Jay doesn’t like to blame anybody. He thinks everybody is very good. I just want the awareness to be there. It can happen with anybody if it can happen with Jay.”

Though Patel was unable to finish his coursework before his passing, the university presented him with an honorary degree at his memorial, and his friends wore graduation robes during the ceremony to honor his dream. 

“We wanted Jay to be able to have a graduation ceremony with his friends from his class,” senior Dev Patel said. “Education was very important to him, and even though he didn’t have much time left, he still wanted to come to Vanderbilt to do classes so he could graduate.”

Patel was involved with Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, Alternative Spring Break, Vanderbilt Student Government and the South Asian Cultural Exchange. He was also an avid lover of sports, movies and music. 

Patel also served as VSG’s Elections Commissioner during the 2020-2021 school year. Veer Shah, class of 2021 and Vanderbilt’s 2020-21 student body president, described Patel as determined to fulfill his VSG responsibilities, despite being diagnosed during his tenure as commissioner. Shah said he would always remember Patel for his kind, loving personality. 

“Most of my conversations with Jay typically involved us laughing and joking endlessly, but this time I remember us having a heartfelt conversation about life and career goals,” Shah said, describing his favorite memory with Patel. “Jay shared his wisdom with me by saying ‘I’ve realized that material possessions literally do not matter. It’s important to have goals and to look good, because you always want to be the best version of yourself, but experiences—especially traveling—with friends and family surpass anything you could ever buy yourself.’”

In a Dec. 1 email about Patel’s passing, Dean of Students G.L. Black listed various resources for Vanderbilt students to utilize, including the University Counseling Center, the Center for Student Well-Being, the Center for Spiritual and Religious Life and the university’s GriefNet service.

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About the Contributors
Rhea Patney
Rhea Patney, Managing Editor
Rhea Patney (‘26) is majoring in medicine, health and society and communication of science and technology on the pre-med track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from St. Louis and previously served as Deputy Data Director. When not writing for The Hustler, Rhea loves reading, starting new TV shows and struggling to finish them, playing sports and watching sunsets with her friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
Tasfia Alam
Tasfia Alam, Multimedia Copy Editor
Tasfia Alam (‘25) is from Los Angeles and is majoring in neuroscience and political science in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, she can be found obsessing over a new book, trying to expand her music taste or taking pictures of pretty sunsets. You can reach her at [email protected]
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