Perneet Powar

Perneet is a medical student at California Northstate University College of Medicine in Elk Grove, CA. She grew up in the Sacramento area before attending the University of Southern California, where she majored in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and minored in Spanish. During her gap year between college and medical school, she worked at an orthopedics private practice as a pre-medical intern. As a medical student, she is part of leadership for the student-run Emergency Medicine, Global Health, and Medical Spanish interest groups. She is also co-chair for SEVA clinic, which provides basic medical care for the local underserved South Asian community. She intends to pursue a career in Emergency Medicine with a fellowship in Global Health. In her free time, Perneet enjoys hiking, tennis, reading and traveling.

Project Harapan: Assessing the intersection of effective tuberculosis screening, prevention, and treatment strategies with substance abuse among HIV+/HIV- prisoners in Malaysia
University of Malaya

What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?
I am incredibly humbled and honored to have received the Kean Fellowship. As a medical student, I value the importance of seeking diverse opportunities that will help broaden my skillset as a future healthcare professional. The Kean Fellowship provides an amazing platform for me to act on my curiosities and help learn how to effect change on a global scale by focusing on education and leadership in underrepresented areas of medicine. The support provided by this fellowship will help me perform my own research project with an incredible team in Kuala Lumpur at the University of Malaya.

What do you anticipate learning?
Through this project, I will be working with prison staff and inmates to examine the difference in knowledge and attitudes surrounding tuberculosis versus the novel COVID-19 virus in a sociopolitically isolated group of people. Because COVID remains a new and unexplored disease, there is a lot to learn about stigma attached to infected patients. Tuberculosis remains a prominent opportunistic infection affecting lungs in HIV+/- prisoners, so I hope by studying the intersection and individuality of these two diseases I can better recognize the external factors that may be contributing to these infections and better prepare myself to work with such an underserved and stigmatized population in society. Global health and tropical medicine are important topics because many U.S. medical students envision themselves practicing in the United States and thus find it easy to brush off any disease or issue that they anticipate will not affect them, and it is important to spread awareness to help combat that ideology.


What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?
I am interested in tropical medicine because I can engage with global health issues in a context vastly different from what I am learning as a U.S. medical student. As a politically involved individual, I have noticed how tropical medicine intertwines disease with issues of equality and social justice. Many diseases are more prominent in tropical countries because of climate/environment differences, but the ramifications of these illnesses are exacerbated by differences in resources and infrastructure. It’s a privilege that I get to learn about tropical diseases in a comfortable classroom rather than growing up in an environment that forces me to experience one firsthand, which is why I take an interest in reducing the burden that infectious diseases have on vulnerable settings. Geographical borders separating countries create feelings of isolation and absolved responsibility for healthcare professionals, and that makes tropical diseases/global health underrepresented topics in medicine. This unfamiliarity is dangerous because nature is haphazard and infectious diseases can easily transcend borders to create a devastating global impact. Studying tropical medicine will allow me to have a better grasp on disease diagnosis/control and community management.