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A Journey towards Public Health

Masters of Public Health student Sriya Srikrishnan relays her journey to studying in Boston.
BY Sriya Srikrishnan |   20-09-2013
Sriya Srikrishnan
To be honest, I was nervous, irritated and unhappy about leaving home. This was when I took a big leap from a state board education at St. Xaviers College in Mumbai to attending a liberal arts college, miles away, in a different country.

It was hard being away, hearing about all the festive celebrations I was missing at home while trying to adjust to new foods, new friends, a different lifestyle and academic program at Brandeis University in the U.S.

Retrospectively, this was the best thing to have happened to me.

The opportunities I received at Brandeis University offered me a platform to explore. I started as a science student wanting to head into biology laboratory related research, but through taking courses at Brandeis and completing summer internships in India, I found that my true calling was in public health.

Sriya Srikrishnan and co-AIF Fellow Pranav with children, Calcutta Kids health programming

On nearing graduation I was looking for a way to continue to maintain global perspective, while being able to work at the grassroots level in India, where I felt my skills - including language - could be effective. At this point, thanks to the Brandeis Office of Global Affairs, I applied for, and was fortunately accepted to, the American India Foundation’s (AIF) William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India.

Through the fellowship program, I was able to gain field experience while being placed to work with an organization called Calcutta Kids in Kolkata, India. It was inspiring to see public health in action while working closely with the health workers of the organization and interacting with the mothers and children at the Fakir Bagan, an urban slum community of Howrah. I was also able to see first hand, the gap between policies and implementation in India. In addition to the experiential hands-on learning, the most valuable part of the fellowship was the network of fellows that I was able to bond with.

In order to continue working in this field, I felt that I needed to return to the U.S. to attend graduate school and gain skills that are required for this sector in India. I was accepted to the Boston University School of Public Health and started this Fall.

Sriya Srikrishnan in Darjeeling tea-gardens during a visit to Broadleaf, an NGO host-partner in the AIF Fellowship

The move back has been exciting for me - reading articles, reports and doing problem sets for class now seem to hold meaning beyond the classroom. As I sit in my ‘Foundations of Environmental Health’ class and discuss initiatives against lead poisoning in children, due to high levels of lead in household paint, I think about the walls in the houses of the beneficiaries, sometimes painted with any paint they could find and other times just brick walls - with infants breathing in fumes of multiple unknown substances. When I talk about measuring health systems performance in my class on ‘International Public Health Systems’ class, I think of the various methods that could be used to hold professionals accountable and measure indicators in our health system in India. When I do my Epidemiology problem set that tests on me on study designs, I think about the hygiene indicators my partner AIF Fellow and I designed to measure behavior change in the households of Fakir Bagan.

It is hard being away from home and I still get homesick, but the purpose of being here is to gain skills and hear directly from professionals in the field, from all over the world. I am excited by the idea of a career in public health in India, dedicated towards creating positive and tangible developmental changes.
 

Sriya Srikrishnan is from Mumbai, India, and is currently an MPH Candidate at Boston University School of Public Health. She hopes to return post graduation to work in India. Her primary interests are urban slum development, nutrition, and maternal and child health. 

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