No sibling rivalry among high-achieving triplets
WRITTEN BY Julie Drake
Being one-third of a set of triplets means having your identity tied to your siblings. Beyond the familial love, that closeness could breed competition to outdo or, at the very least, keep up with each other.
There are no slackers among the high-achieving Vaghjiani triplets — Nikisha, Nilan and Ronil.
The 18-year-olds were born about one minute apart. Ronil is the oldest, followed by Nikisha and then Nilan.
A couple of weeks before their May graduation from Quartz Hill High School they were among 271 students recognized at the 13th annual 4.0 Student Recognition Dinner at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds for maintaining a cumulative 4.0 or higher grade-point average for all four years of high school.
Nikisha, Nilan and Ronil each carried a GPA “somewhere in the fives,” they said.
Throughout high school, the trio also volunteered at Antelope Valley Hospital, accumulating about 400 volunteer hours each. That helped them meet their community service requirements for the International Baccalaureate program.
Ronil started in the volunteer office and later moved to the transport department, through which patients are discharged or moved around the hospital.
Nilan started in the teen volunteer program, followed by a summer in the biomed program where he got hands-on experience in biomedical engineering and the taking apart and maintenance of machines.
He spent the majority of his four years in the critical care and intensive care units.
Nikisha spent the majority of her time in the pediatric unit working with children and managing the playroom.
“I think it’s definitely led me to, like, wanting to do something in pediatrics later in my life because I enjoyed working with children,” she said.
Being a triplet does have its advantages, the teens said.
“It’s pretty nice because you always have a friend there to talk to if you need to talk to someone. And then, if you have some problem with some of the homework you can just go to your ‘next-door neighbor’ and ask them,” Ronil said.
“For the most part it’s really a nice support system. Like for example, my sister, she’s really high-achieving, and she sets a really high standard, which I, in turn, follow as well,” Nilan said. “It helps with school, personal life, really anything. ... You can talk to them, go into their room, lie on their bed for a few hours, almost free therapy.”
Nilan added they have no sibling rivalry. Each triplet has his or her strengths.
Ronil is the “tech” person. Should anything go wrong with a computer or other gadget, he is the one Nilan or Nikisha will go to for help.
“I wouldn’t say I’m, like, extraordinary at any one thing,” Nilan said. “I’m kind of the medium one, average.”
It’s safe to say that average in the Vaghjiani family is far above-average or better compared to most other families. The triplets’ older brother, Raj, 25, recently graduated from medical school at Brown University and entered his residency.
Their mother, Dr. Manjula Vaghjiani, is chief of internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Lancaster. Father Ghanshyam Vaghjiani is a senior research chemist at Edwards Air Force Base.
Ronil initially thought about going into engineering.
“I had in the back of my mind actually becoming a doctor,” he said. “But after volunteering at the hospital, and then working in the transport department, I really got to interact with a lot of patients and a lot of the departments, so it kind of just pushed me over to that side.”
Nilan admitted he was strongly against becoming a doctor at first, looking more toward software or computer engineering. But he changed his mind after more than three years of volunteering in the hospital’s critical care and intensive care units.
“You see a lot of trauma victims and a lot of things that you don’t normally see in most departments of the hospital, you know, really sick patients, terminal patients,” Nilan said. “And it kind of inspired me to (pursue) trauma surgery, which is what I intend to go for once I matriculate to medical school.”
Nikisha said it was great having an older brother go into medicine. But she also said the different things that she did through her four years of high school pushed her in that direction.
“I definitely came into high school not really knowing what I wanted to do, having a lot of different interests,” Nikisha said. “One example was volunteering in (AV Hospital’s pediatric unit).”
Nikisha, Nilan and Ronil are also certified emergency medical technicians. They took classes at the UCLA the summer between their junior and senior years.
“Really, I enjoyed the patient contact,” Nikisha said. “I think what you learn about medicine is so profoundly human. I always liked science, but it was one way I could interact with people and meet patients.”
Ronil had hoped to attend Brown like his older brother. Instead, he will attend Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has guaranteed admission into the university’s medical school.
Nilan hoped to attend Cambridge University’s medical school but did not get in. He will join Ronil in the same program at Virginia Commonwealth.
Nikisha will attend Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education, which also has guaranteed admission to medical school.
“I like both pediatrics and emergency medicine, definitely like the surgery part, and I’ve actually shadowed a couple of physicians in, like, orthopedic surgery and find that stuff fascinating. So, kind of a mix,” Nikisha said.
Nilan is interested in neonatal care and dealing with pregnancy traumas. Ronil is also interested in trauma, as well as neurosurgery.
“I got to spend some time shadowing some doctors in the surgery room and the ER,” Ronil said.
Nilan said the thought of spending so much time in school to get a medical degree was not discouraging.
“It’s a long path, but I think all of us are determined to finish that because we talk to our brother a lot, and he tells us how hard it is in medical school. I don’t think any of us are frightened away from the challenge,” Nilan said.
Ronil added, “If you really know you want to become a doctor, it shouldn’t matter.”
The trio also was on the staff of The Ubiquity, Quartz Hill High’s student newspaper, for all four years.
“Our older brother was part of the newspaper, and we just thought, ’Hey, why not? Let’s try it,’” Nilan said.
They started as staff writers and moved up the masthead. Nikisha and Ronil served as head copy editors their junior and senior years. Nikisha also served as news editor and Ronil served as editorial editor, while Nilan served as editor-in-chief the past two years, as well as the opinion page editor.
“We’re kind of even; we do the same amount of work,” Nilan said, when it was noted that he was technically his brother and sister’s boss at the newspaper.
“It’s kind of good to have siblings because then you can work with them,” Nikisha said.
Their other accomplishments also include having third-degree black belts in tae kwon do and playing music. Each plays the piano and a second instument. Ronil plays the trombone, Nilan, percussion, and Nikisha the flute.
They also do cycling. They did the Cure de Tour in October 2013 in Santa Barbara for the American Diabetes Association.
“You have a lot of motivation to go the extra mile on your bike when you have two friends to go with you,” Nilan said.
If they have arguments, it was generally over who got to drive to school in the morning.
Quartz Hill High biology teacher Mandi Nichter taught the triplets their freshmen year and also their senior year in the IB program. Nichter recognized Nikisha as the school’s IB Biology student of the year because of her success in Nichter’s class.
“They all have different strengths and personalities,” Nichter wrote in an email.
She added, “An important part of their success is that they have researched and put into action a plan that included summer research programs every summer of high school. They have learned the importance of taking opportunities to impact the lives of those less fortunate. They have traveled to Africa and spent time in various activities at an orphanage, either building computers or teaching classes.”