University of Virginia
"Professionally, the Kean Fellowship allows me to fully immerse myself in a global health opportunity in India that may otherwise not have been possible."
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with a highly-treatable form of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. While I recovered completely after a few months of chemotherapy, I felt as if I had been forced to grow up too fast in some ways. As I reflected upon my illness, however, I realized that the overall effect was quite the opposite. I now saw opportunity and energy in everything, living completely in the present, much as a child would. My trials with chemotherapy and hospital admissions also gifted me with a special understanding of how it feels to be truly sick as a child.
Blessed with these new outlooks, I soon found my home in pediatric medicine. I have always instinctively enjoyed being around children, and Pediatrics allows me to combine my passions for medicine and science with the daily joys of childish behavior, innocence, and imagination.
With my entrance into Pediatrics came a developing interest in preventive care and public health. Now pursuing a dual degree in medicine and public health, I hope to influence the health of children at the individual and community level in the needy populations in the United States and internationally. My current project in India has dramatically underscored the challenges in promoting the health of children, and I cannot imagine not returning here to bring care to what appear to be some of the most needy people on the face of the earth.
What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future?
I cannot fully express my thanks and gratitude for the ASTMH's generosity in granting me this award. Winning the ASTMH Kean Fellowship was personally meaningful as a reflection of some of my hard work in the past several years in the fields of medicine and public health, but also of my good fortune knowing that other candidates were highly qualified and had impressive applications. Professionally, the Kean Fellowship allows me to fully immerse myself in a global health opportunity in India that may otherwise not have been possible. The lessons I have already learned while working in India and the shaping of my career are very much due to what this award will make possible. Thank you so much for this opportunity!
I've always known America to be a relatively highly-ordered, well-developed nation, populated by people who largely keep to themselves and for the most part, all enjoy at least some small luxury due to their living in the United States. Most enjoy quite a few luxuries that are often taken for granted. These luxuries range from ease of access to health care, transportation and education, all the way to clean air and water, personal security and nearly boundless opportunity. India has shown me a side of life that possesses none of these amenities for a staggering percentage of the people that I see and speak with everyday.
Describe some of your most memorable travel or work experiences.
My current trip to India has been my most personally-fulfilling and enlightening travel experience to this point in my life. It is true that I have not traveled very much--only out of the country to Peru for ten days a few years ago. Had things been different, it is still hard to imagine India not having the most powerful effect on me.
Lacking clean water, quality education for their children, four walls around them and any true opportunity to escape their circumstances, the people of India are far from beaten, and in most cases--perhaps not unsurprisingly--are more resourceful and self-sufficient than the large majority of people I know in America. Their resilience does not end there.
The culture and values of Indian people are so rich and deeply ingrained, that they seem to offer a type of happiness and love of life that I think is quite elusive in the Western world. While the West often appears obsessed with pursuing such pleasure and contentment externally, the East has been quite successful at cultivating these qualities internally, within themselves and their children.
It has been incredibly rewarding to offer my help in working for a solution to childhood malnutrition and vaccination in India. Contributing to the lengthening of life is always a special thing, but when the lives being prolonged promise to be so passionate and colorful, it can only become that much more meaningful.
What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
When you begin to contemplate which specialty to enter upon graduation in two years, all of you will be going in different directions. I would advise considering specialties not only on the basis of the medical topic at hand, and how fulfilling it is to you, but also based upon the character of those people you encounter in that specific specialty, and how well you can see yourself working for similar people for the foreseeable future. Find something that is intellectually stimulating medically, personally-fulfilling, has the right amount of patient-contact for you, and will surround you with the types of people that you enjoy being with.
For students entering medical school soon, speak up and ask questions often. If you are confused, asking a question will only help you your fellow students who doubtless have the same question. On a similar note, don't be afraid to answer questions publicly or explain your thoughts. Not only will it add to your confidence and presence as a future physician, but answering a question incorrectly in front of others will ensure that you remember the right answer next time. And finally, trust your gut instinct much more often than not, and to develop a healthy hobby or enjoyable outside-of-medical-school activity. You are entering a very difficult and competitive atmosphere that is sure to humble and overwhelm each and everyone of us. Be mindful of that, and do not despair over failures.