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Priyanka Choudhury

Senior, Public Health Major, Entrepreneurship Minor
What has inspired you to study public health?

My parents are both doctors, so growing up I was always surrounded by health, and after coming to Santa Clara and experiencing multiple ELSJ placements at an Alzheimer's Activity Center and a community center for the mentally disabled, I realized I wanted to focus my passion for health by touching people at the community level, which is essentially what public health is.  
 

Can you share a little about your experience with the Jhamste Gatsal Children’s Community and what you did during this time?

Jhamste Gatsal Children's Community is located in an extremely remote part of the Himalayas in Arunachal Pradesh, India. The community takes children from the surrounding villages who do not have parents or who come from abusive households and gives them a home, an education, and a family. Currently the community is home to about 90 students that range from the ages of 4 years old to 19 years old. Jhamste Gatsal translated from Tibetan means the Garden of Love and Compassion. These children, who have very little, are always giving and are so loving. They gave me and taught me so much more than I could ever give them.

My role in the community was to assist with any public health matters that needed tending to. One of the important ideas that I learned about entering a remote and rural community like Jhamste Gatsal is that you have to adapt your goals to the community’s needs at any given time. When I first arrived at the community, I was asked by the founder of the community, a former monk, to assist with mental health research. The founder wanted to be able to asses the success of the school in terms of the children’s happiness with numbers and data. We accomplished this through various surveys.

After that I worked in the medical clinic at the community and worked on improving their medical record system. They had a paper system and I created a very simple and user friendly electronic medical record (EMR) database and converted all the records onto this database using a donated laptop.

I also tutored students in math, taught students piano on a keyboard, and got to immerse myself in Tibetan culture, and my own Indian culture. I also had the most amazing experience of getting to wake up to the vast beauty of the Himalayas every day for 6 weeks.

 

What lessons did you gain from your experience?

I learned so much about researching in a different cultural setting and about how to serve a community using my public health knowledge. I also learned so much about leadership through having to take charge of my own projects. I had to nurture ethical awareness and sensitivity to social justice issues inherent in the health disparities facing underserved populations and communities and this experience forced me to use my critical thinking and leadership skills while trying to decide what project to pursue and how to pursue it.

Most importantly I learned about love and compassion and how big of a difference it can make in every individual's lives.

 

How do you hope to apply these lessons in the future and what are some of your goals after SCU?

This experience also solidified my goals for after graduation. I want to go for my MHA (Master of Health Administration) and hopefully be able to serve communities like Jhamste Gatsal. I loved heading my own projects and using my passion for public health to make a difference in a rural community.

http://jhamtseinternational.org/

Also, I highly recommend everyone watch the HBO documentary Tashi and the Monk. It is a wonderfully made documentary made about the community. http://tashiandthemonk.com/

 
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