April 30, 2019—About six months ago, first-year UF College of Medicine student Aparna Sethumadhavan donned her UF College of Medicine white coat for the first time, symbolizing her entry into a career carrying great power and responsibility. For her, that responsibility transcends the individual patient relationship and means activism for larger populations.
“I realized that by becoming a physician, I could help my individual patients and also be an activist for health equity and help marginalized communities. I know that my privilege has helped me get where I am, and I think that I have a responsibility to help those that don’t have the same privileges,” she says.
Sethumadhavan makes strides toward her professional goals with help from the Hugh and Mabel Wilford Scholarship Fund, which she says allows her to focus on her studies and community work.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the help that this scholarship gives me,” she says. “It also serves as a great reminder that there are so many people supporting me as I go through medical school, and it motivates me to keep going.”
As president of the UF College of Medicine chapter of Medical Students for Choice, Sethumadhavan advocates on a grassroots level for pregnant women and their right to secure abortions.
“Medical Students for Choice is an international organization that works to destigmatize abortion and encourage more education about this topic in order to ensure access to safe and legal abortions,” she says.
Her advocacy work doesn’t stop there. As a fellow of Young People For, a program of the People For the American Way Foundation, Sethumadhavan is part of a national leadership development pipeline for college-aged progressive leaders.
“This program was created to empower people in their 20s throughout the United States to become leaders for change in their community,” she says. “I will be trained in community organizing and have to develop my own social justice-related project to implement in my community. I’m planning to use this fellowship to explore health equity in Gainesville and develop an understanding of how I can use grassroots-level organizing to improve health care outcomes for patients of all backgrounds.”
Sethumadhavan’s interest in rectifying health equities has been top of mind since she was an UF undergraduate student, studying chemistry and women’s studies.
“I think that studying both chemistry and women’s studies was the perfect combination because I was studying science but also learning how to analyze the experiences of marginalized communities in society,” she says. “Being a women’s studies major really cemented my commitment to becoming a physician. I learned so much about health inequity.”
Sethumadhavan finds the UF College of Medicine the perfect place for her to take steps toward achieving the future career she’s long dreamt of.
“The UF College of Medicine not only supports students but encourages us to pursue the unique aspects of medicine that interest each of us. I’ve never had to work harder than I am right now, but the college and my classmates have created a wonderful and supportive learning environment that makes it possible for everyone to succeed,” she says.
Her medical training may have just begun, but Sethumadhavan is sure of the impact she wants to leave on the lives she touches.
“My goal in whatever I do is to work to reduce health inequities and support the advancement of marginalized people in health care,” she says. “Health care is a human right, and I want to make sure that all patients are treated with this in mind.”