Navigating a Global Pandemic as a Health Innovator

Hey Panthers! I am Aparna Ramani, a rising junior studying Neuroscience, Chemistry, and pursuing certificates in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine and Global Health. This past year, I was a lucky recipient of the David C. Frederick Public Service Internship Award, and have had the opportunity to serve as a Health Policy Intern for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Greater Pittsburgh this summer.

Growing up as an aspiring physician, I found myself spending countless hours volunteering in Adaptive Aquatics programs for youth with neuromuscular deficiencies, singing to geriatric patients at long-term care facilities, and developing home exercise programs as an intern for a local Physical Therapist. Throughout these experiences, I soon began to hone in on the gaps within provider-patient relationships in many specific areas of the medical field- whether lacking a personalized focus in swim exercises for a seven-year old, or not setting oneself at bedside level when communicating with an elderly patient. This discrepancy fascinated me, and as a believer of improving healthcare quality for all, I found this issue to be a roadblock at the forefront of significant medical change. Upon attending a medically-focused high school, my passions to establish equal platforms in administering biopsychosocial models of care became even more apparent. 

Little did I know, two years after graduating high school, my journey as a health activist has continued to rise to unexpected heights. My love for health equity coupled with my recently-found passion for research has led me to exploring the breadth, depth, and frequency of fee-for-service vs. value-based insurance coverage policies, and the patient role within shared decision-making. As both a former Brackenridge Fellow and University Honors College Research Fellow, I have been able to expand on my research endeavors by networking with faculty mentors within disciplines ranging from rehabilitation sciences, to obstetrics/gynecology. The broad nature of improving provider-patient relationships has only allowed my focus to grow, as I am able to further understand underlying patterns of health disparities within various fields, and identify ways to elevate the voices of others. 

As a current Frederick Intern, I continue to expand upon the aforementioned within a community-based setting. While I have had extensive experience elevating voices within the clinical setting, I challenge myself to pave pathways in understanding the social determinants of health, institutionalized socioeconomic health discrepancies, and ways to effectively promote intersectionality within healthcare. My current project investigates health inequities of minority women among the Pittsburgh community, which serves an integral role in interpreting COVID-19 responses to women’s health from both a medical and sociological perspective. With guidance from Ms. Barbara Johnson, Senior Director of Race and Gender Equity from YWCA, I am able to specifically explore my interests in Pittsburgh’s underrepresented/marginalized populations by collaborating with community organizations, government officials, and healthcare professionals. This experience has started shaping my ability to obtain a holistic perspective on medical research, and has helped increase my own awareness to the effects of sociodynamic change on population health outcomes. 

Health Policy plays a pivotal role in health care reform, and by exploring this topic further, I would like to shape the integration of biomedical science within public policy modifications. Throughout my future, I hope to strengthen pre-existing health-outreach strategies, establish large-scale policy initiatives, and promote a patient-centered approach to the current healthcare marketplace. With an intended career in Public Health, my work as a Frederick Intern will help strengthen my empathy, advocacy, and service to create intimate relationships and cultivate enriching community atmospheres locally, nationally, and one day, globally. Stay tuned to hear about my experience!

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