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Bharati Kalasapudi '07

Experiences in India open eyes of PLME student

Bharati Kalasapudi '07 didn't always want to be a doctor, but when she visited India during her senior year of high school to see "what India was really like," her direction in life shifted dramatically.

"I spent a lot of time in Indian villages," Kalasapudi said. "I decided that medicine was the best skill set to make changes in the developing world and among under-served populations."

Kalasapudi, whose parents are Indian, spent the first eight years of her life in Visakhapatnam, on the eastern coast of India. She then moved to Paris before spending her high school years in New York.

Once Kalasapudi decided to become a doctor, she applied to combined college-medical programs all along the East Coast. Deciding on Brown's Program in Liberal Medical Education, Kalasapudi felt she was stepping into a world of frightening but exciting opportunities.

"Brown was out of my comfort zone," Kalasapudi said. "I'd never shared a double (room). But the people I met in my first month really made me appreciate stepping out."

In addition to her interest in medicine, Kalasapudi became involved in organizations with an international focus during her time at Brown. These include Brown Model United Nations and the Brown University Simulation of the United Nations, which undergraduates run for visiting high school students.

"I did Model U.N. in high school, and wanted to keep going," Kalasapudi said, "I got very heavily involved with BUSUN."

Kalasapudi also took on a role in the Community Health Advocacy Program beginning her first year.

"We teach kids basic health things like wash your hands, eat well, this is how your heart works. ... It's a lot of fun."

Off campus, Kalasapudi's dedication to community health and to working with under-served communities is even more apparent. In the summer after her junior year, she once again traveled to India with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to do research on cervical cancer.

"India has the largest burden of cervical cancer in the world," Kalasapudi explained. "This is mainly because of a lack of preventive care and cancer screening."

In India, Kalasapudi helped a group of doctors and local staff to test different methods of screening for cervical cancer and their practicality in the field. The project was very demanding, she said, and several times she considered giving up.

"It was hot, we worked long hours and it was hard to get in with the local staff," Kalasapudi said.

Fortunately, Kalasapudi's proficiency in Telegu, an indigenous Indian dialect, allowed her to cross cultural barriers. When she finally returned to the United States at the end of her trip, she realized how much she had gained.

"As soon as I got back, I realized how much I got from the experience," Kalasapudi said.

Another internship, this time assisting the New York University School of Medicine's Center for Immigrant Health in New York, exposed Kalasapudi to the problems of under-served medical patients living in the United States.

"I learned a lot about undocumented immigrants," Kalasapudi explained. "I was exposed to a whole new side of immigration that I really don't see."

An immigrant to the United States herself, Kalasapudi was shocked by many immigrants' urgent need for assistance.

"There is a great need for social justice medicine here in the United States," Kalasapudi said.

With four more years left at Brown as a medical student and many of her friends about to graduate, Kalasapudi is of two minds as she approaches Commencement.

"I'm not as apprehensive about graduating because I don't need to figure out what I'm going to do next year," she said. "The hardest part for me is knowing that all of my non-PLME friends won't be here next year."

Kalasapudi is also growing tired of Providence. After four years of studying at the Rockefeller Library, the Center for Information Technology and the Sciences Library, she is trying to find new places to work.

"I'm not crazy about Providence, but Brown is a great place. ... I'm hoping that I'm so busy I won't notice I'm in Providence."

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