Rahul Shah, a junior majoring in economics and biology, has been involved in research since he started at UGA, volunteers at a local hospital, is president of World Ambassadors and is an IMPACT leader. The future doctor plans a career combining his passions for medicine, public policy and economics.
Evans High School
A.B. in economics, B.S. in biology
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
Since my first semester here at UGA, I have been involved with the Roosevelt Institute, a national student policy think tank with chapters at over 100 universities across the country. Working with Roosevelt, I have conducted policy research with faculty members in a variety of disciplines, including public health, economics and education. I’ve conducted research on the economic feasibility and public health implications of a large-scale implementation of needle exchange programs to address Russia’s HIV epidemic, presenting this work at the UGA CURO Symposium in the spring of my freshman year. My sophomore year, I focused on something closer to home: the educational disparity between English learners and native English speakers in Georgia schools. My policy solution was that Georgia should subsidize the implementation of dual-language immersion programs in public schools in districts with a large percentage of English learners. This policy research was then published in the national 10 Ideas for Education journal, in which the top 10 policy ideas from college students around the country are published.
Continuing to explore my interests in public health and policy, the summer after my sophomore year, I had a two-month stint as a health policy intern at the Chicago Department of Public Health. My work at the Department of Public Health was a perfect overlap of all of my interests: medicine, economics and public policy. After working with health economists, physicians and public health officials that summer, I know that being a physician and public health policymaker is a career I want to pursue.
Additionally, during my sophomore year, I got involved in science research, working under professor Lisa Donovan in the plant biology department. My work looked at mapping the genetic basis of physical defenses in the sunflower. I also presented this work at the CURO Symposium, and, later this year, I’ll be published as one of the co-authors of a paper in a plant biology research journal.
Outside of the hard science and public policy aspects of the sort of career I want in the future comes the human aspect. Over the last two years, I have been having a blast playing doctor and pretending to make rounds when I volunteer at St. Mary’s Hospital as well as various hospices in Athens.
Talking about the highlights of my time at UGA so far wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my involvement with the Department of International Student Life, or ISL. This department strives to internationalize the campus experience through programs for the entire student body as well as support services for international students. Working with ISL has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life and these experiences have developed my ability to communicate effectively and understand the needs of a large diversity of people, skills that are indispensable to me as I pursue medicine.
UGA is very unique in that its Department of International Student Life hosts a very comprehensive weeklong orientation for the nearly 400 newly matriculating international students each year, filled with informative sessions and social activities all around Athens. For the last two summers, I have been a “world leader,” what ISL calls its orientation leaders for international student orientation. My experiences as a world leader have been some of the most formative of my college career. I am so fortunate to have met hundreds of students from around the world and to have been able to learn from the diverse perspectives they bring to the University of Georgia.
While I am not an international student myself, I recognize that two-way, natural interaction between international students and domestic students can be very hard. As president of World Ambassadors, the campus organization and the student-extension of ISL, I have been working to bridge the gap between domestic and international students since my freshman year by promoting cultural diversity on campus through unique event programming as well as by creating a more inclusive environment for international students. With World Ambassadors and ISL, I worked to create the Language Partner Program, a program that pairs international students with domestic students for the purpose of English proficiency development for the international student as well as cross-cultural sharing for both students. The Language Partner Program was piloted in the spring of my sophomore year and it was so successful that World Ambassadors has decided to make it a flagship program to host indefinitely. This semester, over 400 students are currently involved.
A college experience can’t be complete without learning about social inequities and what we can do to try to combat them. I have been involved in IMPACT since my freshman year as well. IMPACT is an organization on campus that takes groups of around 15 students on alternative spring and winter break trips to cities all around the country to engage in a week of volunteer service. Each city has a specific social justice focus and each trip is organized and led by two student site leaders. During my freshman year spring break, I went on a trip focused on disability awareness and during my sophomore year, I went on a trip focused on veterans’ advocacy. I’m really excited to be the site leader for the urban environmental awareness for this upcoming spring break of my junior year!
Since my freshman year, I have been employed as a math tutor at UGA’s Academic Resource Center, a resource on campus that offers free tutoring to all students for a variety of subjects.
Family Ties to UGA:
I’m the first Dawg in my family, but certainly not the last! I’m excited for my little sister to be coming here soon.
I chose to attend UGA because…
UGA provides me a robust undergraduate research program and so many other opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. If you want to do anything at all, like get funded to go abroad, conduct research in any conceivable discipline, or engage in social activism through service, UGA provides avenues to achieve it.
The gorgeous campus is also one of the joys of going to school here!
My favorite things to do on campus are…
Colleges have long been incubators for social activism and catalysts for social change. For example, college students engaged in the civil rights movement through the running of voter registration projects and have led anti-war demonstrations in regard to the Vietnam War. UGA students are no different!
So one of my favorite things to do every day is to walk through Tate Plaza to stop and chat with many of my good friends who are tabling for various student organizations and who are passionate about addressing pressing social issues, organizations like Amnesty International, Athens for Justice in Palestine, and Undocumented Student Alliance. Knowing that so many of my peers are willing to work tirelessly to make the world a better place is something that’s really inspiring to me.
When I have free time, I like…
Whenever I have a free couple of days, my close friends and I love going on road trips! Whether the destination is as far as San Francisco or as close as Charleston, South Carolina, I think being able to drive across the country with friends on historic highways like U.S. Route 66, for example, is a much more immersive and authentic travel experience than flying.
The craziest thing I've done is…
In between two exams during finals week during my fall semester of my freshman year, I decided to take a study break by skydiving. I headed to Monroe, Georgia, with the Skydawgs skydiving club here at UGA and had the exhilarating experience of jumping out of an airplane! 10/10. I’m definitely planning on doing it again soon.
My favorite place to study is…
My favorite place to study is definitely the seventh floor of the main library. (That view can’t be beat!)
My favorite professor is…
Meghan Skira of the economics department is definitely one of my favorite professors. I had never taken any sort of economics classes before I took her Principles of Microeconomics course. Dr. Skira is a great teacher and chatting with her outside of the classroom is always fun. She is one of the reasons that I am an economics major today. She made me realize how economic concepts like thinking about the margin, opportunity cost and cost-benefit analysis are parts of a framework that is useful to successful physicians and health policymakers. I think that my economics coursework is something that has prepared me for becoming a successful physician much more so than anything else has.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…
I would love to spend an afternoon with the fashion icon Coco Chanel! I think fashion, like other forms of art, is something that shapes social structures and movements. Other than being one of the most influential fashion designers of all time, Coco Chanel is someone who’s really inspiring to me because she used her art to rebel against the strict gender boundaries in fashion in her time. She played a part in the fight for the liberation of women by challenging the use of the corset by instead using traditionally male elements of fashion (like pants rather than dresses, looser-fitting designs and real pockets!) and revamping them for the female, so that she could dress for herself rather than for a man.
If I knew I could not fail, I would…
Since affordable access to health care is a basic human right, I would work to establish universal health coverage in the United States so that health care can be equitably delivered without imposing financial hardships to anyone who needs it. Delivering medical care on a case-by-case basis is something I look forward to in the future as a physician, but large-scale change can only be made on a systemic basis.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to…
If money were no object, I would love to take coursework at universities around the world. Not only would I be able to explore the world, but also I would be able to learn the cultural nuances of many groups of people, experiences valuable for me as I hope to be at the forefront of delivering health care to as many people as I can in the future.
After graduation, I plan to…
I plan to attend medical school to obtain a medical doctorate as well as obtain a Master of Public Policy. I want to become a practicing physician, but I’m also interested in having a career that’s located at the intersection of my passions for medicine, public policy and economics. I hope to use policy as a tool to expand access to health care, reduce health inequities, and improve health outcomes for marginalized populations.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…
I will always remember my amazing public health study abroad experience in Taiwan in May after my sophomore year. Being able to take courses in public health, being able to interact with public health officials, and engaging in a comparative health care systems analysis in the gorgeous country of Taiwan is an experience I’m very fortunate to have had. I’ll never forget eating the delicious food at the famous Shilin night markets, exploring the bustling Taipei, and being able to make friends with the progressive college students at a bunch of universities around Taiwan!