Braveen Ragunanthan has been interested in public health and social justice for as long as he can remember. After witnessing extreme poverty in Sri Lanka and India on family trips as a young boy, he began to think about the systems that created such hardship and, more importantly, ways to combat it. These experiences, he says, “ultimately showed me that working in public health closely aligned to my moral sense of purpose.”
In recognition of his dedication to serving the less fortunate, Ragunanthan was honored by the U.S. Public Health Service Physician Professional Advisory Committee with its 2015 Excellence in Public Health Award. The national award recognizes medical students who demonstrate their commitment to improving public health. He received the award at the School of Medicine’s student Honors Day ceremony in May.
Since those childhood trips, Ragunanthan has traveled widely to learn more about what it takes to make a difference in communities around the world. As an undergraduate student at Duke, he spent summers in the Mississippi Delta, at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa and battling neglected tropical diseases in Ethiopia. He says that these trips instilled in him the belief that “all people of all backgrounds, regardless of their circumstances, deserve a chance to enjoy a healthy life.”
Since enrolling in the School of Medicine, he has interned with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and participated in the School of Medicine’s International/ Inner-City/ Rural Preceptorship (I2CRP). This four-year program focuses on equipping medical students with the knowledge, skills and values needed to provide compassionate care to underserved communities. He says that his time in the program has helped him develop the clinical skills that are crucial in this field.
For Ragunanthan, the award is further inspiration to keep working towards larger goals. “Eventually I plan to work as a primary care physician in a medically underserved community and health professional shortage area. I am interested in grassroots community organizing and the potential of working in the space of public health to positively impact communities. I hope to be a champion of preventive medicine and work on health heavily through initiatives that exist beyond the walls of the clinic.”
His next step is taking a year off from medical school to pursue a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. After completing the degree, he plans to return to the MCV Campus to finish his final year of the M.D. program and graduate with the Class of 2017.
By Jack Carmichael