Urvashi Pandya has taken experiential learning to the limits with three study abroad experiences and an immersive internship with the CDC. She plans to work in the field of public health, with a focus on the intersection of minority health and mental health.
Johns Creek, GA
Northview High School
B.S. Health Promotion and Behavior
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
I wholeheartedly believe that UGA has given me the opportunities I needed to grow, explore and build a strong sense of community. When I started at UGA in the fall of 2012, I wanted to double major in psychology and anthropology with a minor in Spanish. However, after learning about the College of Public Health and realizing that I wanted to place a greater emphasis on learning a language, I quickly switched to double major in health promotion and behavior and Spanish instead. In May this year, I graduated with honors with a B.A. in Spanish and symbolically walked with my health promotion cohort at our Commencement ceremony. Currently, I am spending my last semester as a UGA undergrad off campus completing the last degree requirement for health promotion, a 300-hour practical internship. The multiple experiences I’ve had over the years inside and outside the classroom have taught me the importance of academia, research, practice and collaboration.
I have been fortunate enough to travel three summers during my undergraduate experience. The summer after my first year, I knew I wanted to go abroad. Studying abroad was the safest way to do it while also receiving class credit. I participated in the Peru Medical Maymester program organized by UGA en España. In this program, I learned medical Spanish terminology and observed the Peruvian health care system firsthand, all while traveling to ancient Incan sites and living with a local family in Trujillo!
After my second year, I spent a summer in Jakarta, Indonesia, working on a National Health & Lifestyle Project. The project focused on the issue of smoking in Indonesia’s youth and I developed and executed an anti-smoking campaign to encourage tobacco-free lifestyles through a partnership with the local heart association, Yayasan Jantung Indonesia. I also created evidence-based health education classes and worked with youth in schools and orphanages.
Then, after my third year, I returned to Peru to intern with CerviCusco, a nonprofit cervical cancer clinic. Cervical cancer is a large concern in Peru, due to higher rates of human papillomavirus. During my time there, I created educational and promotional materials in Spanish while providing social media and health communications support. Along with local staff and other volunteers, I also went on mobile Pap smear campaigns on which we gave rural Andean women free Pap smears and educated them about cervical cancer. On these campaigns, I also interviewed local women on their perceptions of primary prevention measures for cervical cancer and their barriers to care.
Aside from experiences abroad, I have learned so much close to home as well. From my second year onwards, I was involved in undergraduate research. I was a research assistant in the labs of Nathan Hansen and Tamora Callands, which focused on research regarding mental health in post-conflict settings as well as intimate partner violence.
This past summer, I worked for a company named HolaDoctor that specializes in Hispanic health care marketing. At HolaDoctor, I conducted market research to help the company create informed solutions for insurance companies seeking to reach the Hispanic population. Working there gave me an insight into the for-profit world of health care.
Most recently, I have been spending the semester interning with the CDC’s Office of Minority Health & Health Equity. Over the past few months, I have been involved in a Zika virus prevention project aimed at preventing the spread of the virus in the migrant and seasonal farmworker population. I am also involved in a project to guide the agency on language access policies to better serve populations with limited English proficiency.
Taking part in extracurricular activities has introduced me to inspiring and driven students on campus. One of the most meaningful activities I took part in was tutoring elementary schoolchildren after school with Oasis Católico. Another organization I was a part of is The Chapel Bell: A Positive Press Publication at UGA. The publication serves to inspire action and counter the oversaturation of negative media. I joined the staff as an amateur photographer second year and went on to become the head of media my fourth year! This organization introduced me to some of the best friends I made while at UGA and provided me with a creative outlet, unconditional acceptance, and support.
I have been fortunate enough to complete my undergraduate studies with the help of the Zell B. Miller Scholarship. In May, I was named the Bernard Ramsey Outstanding Senior Undergraduate by the College of Public Health and initiated into the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
Intern at the CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity.
Family Ties to UGA:
I was the first in my family to attend the University of Georgia, so everyone was really excited for me when I committed. I actually visited the UGA campus as a baby to watch some of the 1996 Olympics events, so my mom likes to say that it was always meant to be! This fall, my younger sister started college at Georgia Tech, so it’s going to be interesting when the Thanksgiving game rolls around.
I chose to attend UGA because…
… it immediately felt like home. I went on many campus tours when applying to college, but something just clicked when I visited UGA. The university offers a wide array of degree programs, a diverse student body, many opportunities to go abroad, and a large emphasis on community and collaboration. I knew it was the place I needed to be.
My favorite things to do on campus are…
When I was on campus, I loved to take a walk between class changes, spend some downtime under a tree, get a spot in the library reading room with a view of the quad, or just chat with a friend!
When I have free time, I like…
… to take photos, catch up with friends over a home-cooked meal, explore unknown places, try a new restaurant, go to events around town (there’s always so much going on!), watch a good period/historical drama, or learn how to draw.
The craziest thing I’ve done is…
… intern in Jakarta, Indonesia, for a summer. This was by far one of the most challenging but rewarding things I have done. I went there without knowing the local language (Bahasa) or any of the other interns, who came from several different countries around the world. I didn’t think too much about these factors at the time, but I’m so glad I didn’t and went! We all fumbled through communications with locals, battled four-hour traffic jams, and lost each other one too many times on crowded public transportation, but we came out on the other side still standing. During my stay, I also got to live with a local family that had a beautiful tropical home and incredible hospitality. The friends I made and the work we created together made every challenge worth it.
My favorite place to study is…
Back when I was taking classes in Athens, I would mostly study at my apartment. After a long day, I found that I focused best there. If I wanted a change of scenery, I would head to a coffee shop like Hendershot’s or Iron Works to be around other people that were working too.
My favorite professor is…
There are many professors that have played such an integral role in my growth at UGA. Each one of their insights and guidance has helped me grow.
Katie Hein has been one of them. I took three classes with her: Foundations of Health Promotion, Community Health, and Women’s Health. Dr. Hein brings her love for social justice to the classroom every day and has been an invaluable mentor to me. She always goes out of her way to make time for her students, even if it means sacrificing some of her personal time!
Christina Proctor, whom I took a Research Design and Methods class and Effects of Drug Use and Abuse class with, has been another inspiration to me. A Triple Dawg, Dr. Proctor is fiercely dedicated to the Athens community and spends a lot of her time outside the classroom working to improve the health of the people in it. She is a reminder that there is a lot of work we can do within our own communities and make a great impact.
Nathan Hansen and Tamora Callands, my research mentors, have allowed me to develop a curious mind and understand how to conduct behavioral science research with compassion and respect. They have encouraged me to think critically and formulate research questions of my own.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
I would love to meet Rupi Kaur, a young Indian Canadian author, artist and spoken word performer whose work I have discovered within the last year. She writes about identity, love and trauma and seeks to empower the female community through her words and images. Her work is a prime example to me of how art can build people up and incite social change.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
… start my own organization that focuses on breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness and providing comprehensive mental health services to underserved populations. Mental illness does not discriminate and greatly impacts the quality of life of many people around the world, as it is closely tied to our overall well-being. Countless people struggle quietly, afraid or unable to seek help. It is my dream to see mental illness viewed as a concern just as serious as other public health epidemics.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
… be a full-time creative! Photography and drawing are activities I always wish I had more time to do, but it would be incredible to develop my skills and do them full time. Something I’ve always wanted to do is document mental illness through photography and tell people’s stories using the medium.
After graduation, I plan to…
… gain more experiences working in the field of public health, with a focus on the intersection of minority health and mental health. I also plan to continue my education; currently I am considering a Master of Public Health or a degree in clinical psychology.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
My second year, we won our game against LSU by a very close margin. I remember when we scored the winning touchdown with very little time left on the clock, the entire student body in the stands went wild! Strangers were hugging strangers and crying tears of joy. During that moment of celebration, I felt the unity of those who bleed red and black. I’ll never forget that.