Priyanka Parikh wants to reimagine health care.
The University of Georgia student is inspired, in part, by her work as national student coordinator for The Period Education Project, a physician-led organization that works to improve access to menstrual health education. “This is health care the way it should be done,” she said, explaining that one of the organization’s primary goals is to normalize health issues otherwise considered taboo. The group has conversations with people in the community and it also trains physicians and medical students about how to have nonjudgmental conversations and convey information without attaching any stigmas.
Parikh is also focused on destigmatizing aging.
“What’s going to happen when I no longer have the mobility that I identify with so much now, and what does that do to my value in society?” she said. “How we provide support for aging is crucial, and the answers need to be community-focused.”
During her first year at the University of Georgia, Parikh tutored under-documented students through U-lead Athens and volunteered with patients at SouthernCare Hospice, taking in as much knowledge as possible. She came away from these initial experiences with a completely new perspective.
“Caretaking is highly undervalued in the U.S.,” said Parikh, “and being exposed to this undervalued care has made me realize that the future of health care should include all of the social aspects that have been dehumanized for so long. Long-term care reform is about humanizing the issues and making sure that everyone is supported.”
When Parikh, originally from Columbus, first visited UGA as a prospective student, she had no intention of staying in Georgia. But after the first hour of being on campus, Parikh fell in love with all the university and Athens had to offer. She decided that there was simply no other place to call home, even after countless campus tours at rival universities. “From day one, the community here has been incredible, and UGA has been the best place to grow academically, professionally and personally,” said Parikh.
A student in the Morehead Honors College, Parikh is looking to complete a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as a B.A. in economics by May 2023. Her drive and dedication landed her a spot as a Foundation Fellow, UGA’s premier academic scholarship program, which gives her access to a community of like-minded scholars, study abroad opportunities and more.
Parikh is also a Georgia finalist for this year’s Truman Scholarship.
Exploring how to enact change within the system
Parikh has wasted no time in finding her niche, choosing to focus on long-term care policy and research through multiple outlets.
This summer? She worked as a health policy intern for the Greater New York Hospital Association, where she researched and wrote briefs on health policy and hospital administration, and co-led seminars on COVID vaccine hesitancy in the workplace and workplace well-being. This experience was key in helping her reimagine how health care could function.
Parikh is part of multiple other efforts. She leads a nonpartisan student think tank centered on policy writing and implementation at the Roosevelt@UGA, which allows students to connect with local government officials and explore policy changes on pressing issues such as homelessness, sustainability and education.
When she isn’t taking part in critical research or helping to guide policy, she can be found volunteering at one of many organizations around Athens, including The Backpack Project, Regency SouthernCare Hospice and as a vaccine ambassador for UGA.
The Backpack Project was one of Parikh’s first volunteer experiences at UGA, and set the course for her future work.
“From day one, it was so eye-opening,” said Parikh. “This group completely changed my perspective on what UGA students do around campus.”
This experience has also shaped how she views policy creation. “The goals of policymaking should include paying attention to the voices in the community and empowering them to lead the decisions,” said Parikh.
After graduation, Parikh plans to take a gap year to work full time with a community-based organization that focuses on addressing gaps in health care. Eventually, she plans to attend medical school, as well as pursue a master’s degree focused on policy research. This will allow her to take her ideas on policy research and implementation to a national level and reimagine how health care can function.
However, she is quick to point out that she is not in a hurry to get there. She’s enjoying the journey, a journey that she said wouldn’t have been possible without the people she’s met at UGA.
“I couldn’t do any of this without all of the mentors, other students, and support systems that UGA and the Athens community have given me.”