Amazing Students

Sarah Premji

Sarah Premji, who will be graduating in May with degrees in biology and psychology, plans to become a physician with a focus on improving the quality of life of disadvantaged individuals. Her education at UGA, both in the classroom and around the globe, has given her a solid foundation to live her dream.

Hometown:

Marietta, Ga.

High School:

Walton High School

Degree objective:

B.S. in biology, B.S. in psychology, minor in religion

Expected graduation:

May 2015

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

In my freshman year, I attended meetings for an organization that piqued my interest: MEDLIFE at UGA, a student organization that was not only focused on medicine, but also education and development and how those concepts interconnect to influence people living in poverty, both in Athens and abroad. I attended service events and met some amazing like-minded individuals during that year. In my sophomore year, I was chosen as the co-president of MEDLIFE at UGA and served in that role for two years. Being a leader for MEDLIFE at UGA, I gained public speaking and leadership skills, I formed relationships with people I would call my close friends, and I developed a passion for health care and service. Through all of our volunteer work locally—Oasis Católico, Athens Nurses Clinic, Mercy Health Center, Athens Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, MedShare and Red Cross—I learned that poverty exists even in our own backyard. Working with the executive board to conduct fundraisers such as the Zombie 5K, Nuci’s Space benefit concert, Salsa Night and endless Ecuadorian scarf sales, I learned how every dollar can go a long way when working to make an impact on a community. I saw that firsthand, when I traveled to Peru over winter break in my sophomore year with MEDLIFE. Working alongside a community that resided high in the mountains of Lima to build a staircase so they could safely navigate the terrain and assisting physicians in a mobile clinic was a powerful, eye opening experience. I enjoyed being a part of MEDLIFE so much so that after my two-year term, I joined the MEDLIFE national Student Advisory Board and I now assist MEDLIFE chapters in the Southeast to expand their organizations.

In my junior year, I was chosen to serve as an Honors teaching assistant for first-year Honors students. It has been rewarding to interact with brilliant and motivated first-year students and guide a small group of them through academic and extracurricular opportunities here at UGA.

My interests in international health care led me to my work with a nonprofit organization, Child Family Health International, in Pune, India, for six weeks during the summer after my sophomore year. I was fortunate to have received funding through the Honors International Scholars Program. The focus of my trip was maternal and child health, and seeing the stark contrast between high-profile hospitals in Pune and run-down community clinics in rural Pawana, I was shocked. Exploring the health care system of India, I learned about the cultural, educational, religious and political implications on health care in a developing country. My passion for medicine, education and global health was solidified on that trip.

I also am lucky to have had some amazing research experiences. In my sophomore year, I began working in the lab of Ralph Tripp in the department of infectious diseases where I learned lab techniques and assisted in several projects on H1N1 influenza. I also worked under a cardiologist, Dr. Narendra Singh of Atlanta Heart Specialists, where I collected information on patients using Coumadin, a blood thinner. We saw how the effect of Coumadin in his group practice was not quite as effective as the published literature shows. My findings were significant enough to develop an abstract alongside Dr. Singh and I was fortunate to present my research at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress Conference in Montreal, Canada. That was my first conference, and certainly an experience I will never forget. I also presented this research at the UGA Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Symposium.

The Athens community offers wonderful service opportunities, one of which has been a major part of my undergraduate career. I began my work at Mercy Health Center in my freshman year as a check-in volunteer. I am now working once a week as a scribe where I shadow the physicians and convert patient notes into an electronic medical record. Mercy has had a significant impact on me as its commitment to providing quality service and whole patient advocacy for those living under the poverty line drives the vision I foresee for my medical practice.

This past summer, I interned for the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, the nonprofit governing body for Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. At the FDHA, I worked to advocate for patient health and health prevention on the population level. With some experience in public health, I hope to promote disease prevention to a greater extent through inter-professional collaboration with public health professionals.

Some other highlights of my time at UGA include being inducted into Palladia Women’s honors society and Phi Beta Kappa honors society.

Family Ties to UGA:

Although my cousin started our Bulldog legacy, I’m the first in my direct family to attend UGA. I can, however, say my family has adopted the proud Bulldog spirit and has fallen in love with UGA and Athens.

I chose to attend UGA because…

Beyond an initial interest in UGA, I attended an accepted students day hosted by the Honors Program and was blown away by all this campus had to offer: incredible opportunities in endless disciplines. The dual nature of being a student of the Honors Program while also being a student of the University of Georgia provided the perfect balance between small, group-focused religion and literature courses while also providing well-funded, exciting research opportunities that are associated with large universities. I enjoyed forming wonderful relationships with brilliant, passionate, driven peers and professors while also being able to dive into a college community filled with an array of service, cultural and social events. And the HOPE Scholarship is just the icing on the cake.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

I love enjoying the beautiful weather with friends on different parts of campus. Being a science major and humanities minor, I get to spend a fair amount of time on North Campus and South Campus and have gained an appreciation for both. The greenery around the pharmacy building is great for reading a book or catching up with classmates while North Campus is magnificent in its own right. The beautiful gardens and timeless, elegant buildings full of tradition and history are stunning in the fall and spring.

When I have free time, I like…

… trying my hand at cooking new dishes, some of which turn out well, and others not so much. I also love trying new restaurants in Athens with friends, and spending time at Ramsey. Lately I’ve taken up group fitness at Ramsey. Among my favorites are body pump, cycle and Saturday morning yoga.

The craziest thing I've done is…

Riding a 5-ton elephant in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pune, India, has to be up there with one of the craziest things I’ve done. There were cars, trucks, rickshaws, motorcycles and some cows—yes, cows—passing around us. It was certainly an experience I won’t quite ever forget.

My favorite place to study is…

My absolute favorite place to study would be the reading room at the MLC. It’s quiet enough to get substantial work done (like memorizing a hundred Ochem mechanisms or reading a verbal passage for the MCAT) with a view of Sanford Stadium and countless books on the shelves that serve as a reminder that learning is a privilege. Just a few steps outside of the reading room I can meet a group to study with or grab coffee in the MLC.

My favorite professor is…

There is one person on this campus that has, without a doubt, changed my collegiate experience in more than one way. Karl Espelie is the most selfless, committed professor and adviser at UGA. He has single-handedly changed the course of my college career From spending numerous hours in his office planning out the most time-effective schedule to discussing career goals in medicine over a meal and everything in between, Dr. Espelie gives 110 percent to his students to help them be best they can be. He treats us like we are a part of his own family, works through our challenges and shares/celebrates our successes as his very own! I will eternally be grateful to him for his genuine guidance and mentorship.

Maria Navarro has also significantly influenced my path. I took her Honors Fighting World Hunger course in my sophomore year and worked with her as an adviser of MEDLIFE at UGA for two years. Dr. Navarro’s course made me realize my interests in international health care. Through the relationship we have developed, it is clear that she is devoted to the success of her students. The conversations we have force me to look deep into my motivations for wanting to pursue a career in medicine and how I would do so. Through Dr. Navarro, I have gained stronger critical thinking and leadership skills.

There are so many other incredible faculty members at UGA. Sylvia Hutchinson, Ralph Tripp and Elizabeth Sears, to name a few, are some who have invested in me and subsequently have impacted my undergrad experience in the best way possible.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

It would be an honor to spend some time with Atul Gawande, the author of so many incredible medical novels. I first read his book “Complications” in the ninth grade and felt his passion for medicine and surgery, and I identified with it. It was around this point that I decided I wanted to pursue medicine when I was volunteering at Northside Hospital and it all just came together for me. His work has really made me think about what role I envision myself playing in the medical field.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… work alongside other physicians and health professionals to create a clinic in a rural village in a developing country like Tanzania or Kenya. I also would love to create opportunities for young adults interested in medicine so they can get educated and serve as health care workers in that village to improve its situation. Finally, I would want to empower young girls in these villages to educate themselves and become leaders in their community.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

… travel the world and experience different cultures and traditions.

After graduation, I plan to…

… attend medical school and work toward serving as a physician, aiming to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged individuals both domestically and internationally. I also definitely want to incorporate public health and prevention in my career as a physician.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… standing in Sanford Stadium cheering on the Dawgs on a Saturday afternoon. It is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Coming into college, I wasn’t big into football, but UGA has definitely changed that for me. Being a part of the Bulldog Nation is an honor, and cheering on my team in unity alongside my UGA family is exhilarating. I’ve never felt more pride and spirit the way I have for my team and it’s something I’ll always identify with.

Published Sunday,