Please tell us about yourself

Kavya is currently a senior at UMD (University of Maryland) pursuing a dual degree in Community Health and Government & Politics. Kavya has previously interned at the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. She is currently serving as one of the D.C. Program Coordinators for Health Leads, a non-profit which envisions a healthcare system that addresses all the basic needs of patients as a “standard party of quality care.” She has previously taught English in rural Thailand, and is currently co-Captain for Moksha, an award-winning Indian Classical Dance team at UMD. Kavya enjoys reading, travelling, and cheering for the Baltimore Ravens!

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What made you choose to come to the University of Maryland?  

I chose to come to UMD mainly because of the affordable yet excellent education I would be able to receive as an undergrad. However, when visiting the school, I fell in love with its diversity, the students’ school pride, Testudo, and the many opportunities UMD has to offer academically and professionally!

What made you choose the path of Public Health in Behavioral and Community Health?How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

I initially came into school as only a Government & Politics major, however the Spring semester of my freshman year, I decided to take a public health class and absolutely fell in love with the field!

Who inspires you?  Who is a public health role model of yours?

I would say my current role model does not consist of one person, but rather the many people currently involved in the global polio eradication effort—community mobilizers, public health officials, national governments, polio survivors, religious leaders, scientists, etc. In the last year, Africa has had no new cases of polio, a remarkable achievement in global public health. In what seemed like an unreachable feat 30 years ago, Africa is two years away from being officially declared polio-free, with the only cases detected in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is the many collaborators in this global movement that I find so inspiring, that have used cooperation and innovation in complex cultural and political environments to achieve multiple milestones, and still refuse to back down despite the many challenges they continue to face.

Are you involved with anything in the SPH or BCH as a student? If so, what?

As a student, I am not as involved in SPH or BCH as much as I would like to be. However this semester, I will be TAing for one of the sections of HLTH230 (Introduction to Health Behavior) and I am very much looking forward to that!

On what projects or internships are you currently working? Please discuss one project in detail as it relates to your degree? 

This summer, I interned at the World Health Organization (WHO), specifically in the Mental Health & Substance Abuse Department. I did a lot of work within mental health policy and WHO’s QualityRights project, which seeks to improve the quality of care and human rights conditions in mental health facilities across the world. I still feel so honored and humbled to have been a part of such an incredible experience, and I really hope to promote this opportunity to all SPH students and apply all the skills I’ve gained in my final year as an undergrad!

What is one motto you live by?

One motto I live by is the Thai expression “mai pen rai”. I had the opportunity to teach English in Thailand two summers ago, and this phrase was something I often encountered from the always-smiling, easygoing locals during my stay. There is no exact word or phrase in English to reflect the meaning of the phrase, but it can be roughly translated to mean “no worries” or “everything is okay”. Although it does not really seem like a motto, it is often used in the context of never losing your cool despite whatever challenges life may throw at you. I try to live by this phrase—to not dwell on the past, and to always get back up on my feet and move on no matter what barriers I may encounter.

What is one of the things you really enjoy about being a student in the department?

Even despite the large number of students enrolled in SPH, I still love the fact that it still feels like a small, intimate community. Even in a 300-person class, as a student, I can still make the classroom feel small and personal with how welcoming and open the professors, students, and other mentors are here in the department.

What is your proudest moment as a student to date?

I think a lot of little successes over the past 3 years as a UMD student has made me very proud and honored to be a part of this school. However my proudest moment as a student overall was landing the internship at WHO. It has always been my dream to work at a leading public health institution, and working at the headquarters at WHO was definitely something I never imagined I would do as an undergrad!

What are your future goals and career aspirations?

I have a broad range of interests which makes it difficult for me to pinpoint my exact future goals and career aspirations. I don’t necessarily think I have a deadline for things I want to achieve in my career, however at least for now, I know that I would like to pursue some kind of research fellowship abroad, immerse myself in international fieldwork, pursue a master’s and/or PhD in public health or health economics, and eventually start and run my own social enterprise that focuses on health, sustainability, and development. Even within the field of public health, my interests range from mental health in conflict zones, to gender equity and community mobilization, to racial disparities within U.S. health care, to understanding overall health systems domestically and internationally. Hopefully I will be able to discover my niche soon!

Tell us a little bit more about your life outside of school, any fun facts?

I am currently a member and co-Captain of UMD’s premier Indian Classical Dance team, Moksha. We are a nationally competitive, award-winning team that puts a contemporary spin on the ancient art form. It is probably my favorite activity outside of school and something that I am very proud to be a part of. I am also one of the Program Coordinators of Health Leads at UMD, where I, along with other UMD students, regularly volunteer at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C. to assist families in accessing community resources to maintain their overall health and wellbeing. Health Leads’ transformative approach to improve the healthcare system is something I find truly inspiring!