Joseph McKeen
Center for the Common Good

Shanthi Purushotham
Class of 2012

Posted March 07, 2012

Given her previous experience working and volunteering internationally, Shanthi decided to spend her time at Bowdoin exploring her interest in the public health field to learn more about the barriers in access to quality healthcare. During the spring of her first year she participated in the Alternative Spring Break trip to Guatemala to work at Safe Passage where she witnessed the terrible public health conditions of the children and their families. This experience inspired her to spend the next summer volunteering at a government-funded hospital in Bangalore, India.

Wanting to learn more about the public health issues faced in our own Brunswick community, after her sophomore year Shanthi received the Preston Public Interest Career Fund Grant to work at the Oasis Health Network, a free health clinic for the uninsured in Brunswick, Maine. While at the clinic Shanthi became interested in health literacy issues and worked to establish a health literacy training program for the clinic’s staff to bridge the communication gap between the clinic’s medical providers and patients. This internship, along with the Sociology course she took spring semester of her junior year called Critical Theory and New Media with Asst. Professor Dhiraj Murthy, ignited her interest in health communication and the potential for social media to disseminate critical information as a way to mitigate healthcare disparities. As a result, she received the Thomas A. McKinley '06 Grant after her junior year to work for a social media technology company in India to do a feasibility study on the company’s newly developed technology’s ability to provide healthcare and health information to rural communities in India.

Shanthi’s academic work in Neuroscience helped to solidify her interest in health related issues.  She began taking Community-based Courses as a way to connect her academic interests with community needs. As a sophomore Shanthi served as a liaison for Lecturer Genie Wheelwright's Spanish 204 community-based course to put together a Spanish Cultural Immersion Day for high school students in the local community. Her involvement led her to become the McKeen Fellow for Community-Based Course and Research, which allows her to encourage students to connect their academic interests with the local community’s needs.

"My Neuroscience and Anthropology courses and my past international experiences have all ignited my interest in public health.  My engagement in public health issues over my time here at Bowdoin let me to serving as a McKeen Fellow. Working as a McKeen Fellow has allowed me to develop my leadership skills and think critically about how sustainable changes can be made by involving Bowdoin’s student body with the local community. All these experiences have all helped to confirm my career interest in the area of public health and international development."

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“As a senior I am now able to see how different components of my college experience have helped shape the way I interact and engage with the local community as well as my future career interests.”