Amazing Students

Juhi Varshney

Juhi Varshney has taken what seem to be disparate majors in biochemistry and women’s studies and molded a path for her future as a medical doctor specializing in women’s health while infusing clinical excellence with compassion and hope.

Hometown:

Rome, Georgia

High School:

Rome High School

Degree objective:

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, B.S.
Women’s Studies, A.B.

Expected graduation:

May 2017

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I have especially enjoyed exploring both biochemistry and women’s studies outside of the classroom. My two majors are both so applicable to my life, and making interdisciplinary connections between the two fields has been this unexpected joy. I’m currently working in the Davis Lab, where I get to learn all about triple negative breast cancer, an especially aggressive and early onset form of the disease that affects African-American women disproportionately. Not only have I grown as a scientist through this work, but I have learned a lot about advocacy and health disparities.

My women’s studies courses have challenged me to apply the theory that I’ve learned to real practice through advocacy, service and research as well. I worked in the Work and Family Experience Research Lab with Malissa Clark for over a year, studying how gender moderates work-family conflict for both men and women, and I was awarded second place for my individual poster at the 2015 Psi Chi conference at the University of Georgia. I also presented my paper “Bharatanatyam: Empowering Women Through Dance,” a critical feminist analysis of my experiences with Indian classical dance, at the 2015 Southeastern Women’s Studies Association conference.  Women’s studies as a discipline has helped me grow so much by teaching me about the nuances of power and privilege, exposing me to perspectives I never knew existed, and empowering me to believe in my own agency.

Since my sophomore year, I have been a member of The Arch Society, where I get to serve UGA as an official goodwill ambassador. Whether I’m showcasing our beautiful North Campus to sweet middle school students, cheering on the Dawgs at home football games, mingling with alumni who are back in town, or welcoming guests to official conferences, dinners and celebrations, my mission is to share with others the love and joy that the University of Georgia has shown me. The Arch Society has instilled in me a profound appreciation for our university community and its guests, faculty, staff and administrators. I would not be who I am today without the support of my Arch Family that pushes me to be my best self.

I have grown as a dancer through Champa & Chameli, a female fusion dance team that blends elements of both Indian and Western dance and music in pursuit of creative choreography. Not only have I learned new styles like ballet and hip-hop, but I’ve gained a new perspective on leadership and teamwork. I joined the team my first month of college, and I’ve served on its executive board for three years now, two as a co-captain. I’ve enjoyed bringing the team to the larger university community; these past few years, we’ve affiliated with Club Sports, performed for Miracle’s Dance Marathon, and volunteered for RSVP’s One Billion Rising. I adore my teammates — they’re all so creative and passionate and committed, and dancing with them is the best way to end my day!

I studied abroad for a Maymester in Cortona, Italy, where I got to explore endless gelato, beautiful Renaissance sculptures, and the rolling Tuscan countryside. I’ve spent the past two summers volunteering at Women of WORTH, a nonprofit clinic in my hometown that offers preventative gynecological services on a sliding scale. WORTH showed me how I could blend my interest for medicine with my passion for social justice while centering the experiences of women from all backgrounds. I currently serve on the clinic’s board of directors. This past summer, I spent some time with Planned Parenthood New York City, working as a summer intern for its public affairs department. I learned so much about grassroots activism, community coalition building, and developing health care policy. The best part about these summer experiences is that even though I’ve been away from college, I’ve gotten to work with Georgia graduates while I explore my own passion for women’s health. It’s powerful to feel the love of the Bulldog Nation even when I’m not in Athens.

A few other highlights include being an Honors teaching assistant for two years where I got to welcome first-years to the Honors Program, interning with the Institute of Women’s Studies for our biannual Women and Girls in Georgia conference, moderating an alumnae panel for the Provost’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, introducing Nina Davuluri (Miss America 2014) as the keynote speaker for ADIPA Month 2016, and representing Omicron Delta Kappa on the 2016 Homecoming Court.

I am deeply thankful for the support I’ve received from the Honors Program’s Crane Leadership Scholarship and Ash Service Award. I have met some wonderful people through Palladia Women’s Society, Blue Key Honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa and Sphinx. I can’t imagine my college experience without the leadership conversations and lifelong friendships that I have gained through Omicron Delta Kappa. The Dean William Tate Honor Society was the first group of campus leaders that ever welcomed me, and the wisdom, experiences and relationships that I’ve been able to take away from it have shaped the course of my college career. Serving as Tate Society’s president has been the greatest honor.

As I reflect on these experiences, I am so grateful for friends who have listened to me, laughed with me, celebrated me, and inspired me these past three and a half years. Ugh, sorry, I’m not trying to be cheesy but honestly the friendships I’ve made here have been the greatest highlights of all!

Current Employment:

None right now, but I worked as a chemistry tutor for the university’s Academic Resource Center for two and a half years.

Family Ties to UGA:

I am the first in my family … but hopefully not the last!

I chose to attend UGA because…

I was drawn to the University of Georgia because of its strong science curriculum and generous AP credit, but when I decided to matriculate, I could have never imagined how deeply I would come to love the traditions, people and spirit that make this school so special.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

… strolling through campus! North Campus is gorgeous, but South Campus has a lot of overlooked charm too. There are so many rolling green quads, Ag Hill has the most beautiful fall foliage, and we have a peaceful little turtle pond that I always pass by on my way to class. Every day, I see something that makes me think, “What a beautiful day to be a Dawg!”

When I have free time, I like…

… to combine food and friends! When I have free time, I’ll catch up with a friend over a good homemade veggie burger, crispy tofu sauté or snickerdoodle bagel from a local Athens establishment. I love having deep conversations over feta fries and taking selfies with donuts and laughing over guacamole. When I have a free afternoon to myself, I’ll engage in a lil #selfcare by going to a yoga class, reading a good book or trying a new cookie recipe.

The craziest thing I've done is…

SO the wildest thing that has happened to me at UGA was on a late night (an early morning if we’re being honest) after a home football game. I was in the Myers lobby in deep conversation with my new best friends when we heard this banging on the glass from a guy who wanted us to let him in. As he kind of stumbled in, one of my friends caught sight of his bloodstained shoe, and we asked him what had happened. He tried to convince us that he was fine, but his limp was pronounced and we were persistent. He finally confessed to getting into a fight downtown that ended with his foot kind of being run over by a car. All of us were pre-med at the time, and while we were grossly unqualified to help in any way (after three and a half years, we pretty much still are), we were committed to doing something.

Some of my friends stayed in the lobby with him to keep him calm while a few of us raced upstairs to grab a first-aid kit. Adrenaline was kicking in at this point, and we tore open alcohol prep pads and gave them to our new friend to clean his wound. We unpacked some gauze and helped wrap his foot. At some point, a few other late-night stragglers came into the Myers lobby and one of them offered to bring us a bottle of actual alcohol to sterilize the wound, and we were trying to convince him not to because I was terrified of violating the code of conduct. Anyways, we did what we could to patch this guy up and ameliorate the situation, and while we never saw him again, the series of bizarre events served as a bonding experience, a foray into our future professions, and a wild story that we told for weeks about saving a stranger’s foot.

My favorite place to study is…

… the Science Library, or SciLi for short. On my very first day of college, I left my first class feeling overwhelmed and woefully unprepared. I barely knew where I was, but a kind upperclassman told me that if I follow this verdant path toward an odd-looking (but magnificent) bust, I’d be at the library. Since that day, SciLi has offered me a sense of peace and belonging. The building itself is vibrant and colorful. The chairs are so soft, I can spread my notes all over the large tables, I can write all over the portable whiteboards, and I never have to worry about finding an outlet. But the people I see at SciLi make it special too. The staff is always so helpful and kind, and they come up with creative initiatives to engage students like the new “Word of the Week” where we can earn cute prizes. As a science major, I can always count on seeing friends when I’m at the Science Library too. I have a favorite spot on each level of the building, and I pick where to study based on how difficult my work is and how loud I’ll chew when I eat my snacks. The Science Library has become a place where I can recharge and be productive, but it is also a space that holds a lot of fond memories with friends and my own personal successes. I cherish my time at this library, and I will miss SciLi dearly when I graduate.

My favorite professor is…

It’s hard to say because I have too many favorites to pick just one!

Chris Cuomo introduced me to women’s studies, exposing me to so much foundational feminist thought while constantly challenging me with complex course material that really related to my life. Sylvia Hutchinson is a beacon of pure joy, and she makes all of her students feel so special and supported. I liked that Jason Locklin sets clear expectations and supports his students to reach them, and I never expected his organic chemistry course to be so much fun. Rupa Gokal is so passionate about teaching, and her humor makes organic chemistry relatable and entertaining. Paula Lemons cares deeply about each one of her students, and she challenges us to think critically about biochemical concepts, their broader contexts. Michael Adams is such an expert at biochemistry, and he has an elegant teaching style that makes complicated processes seem so simple. I just started taking Julie Stanton’s cell biology course, and she is incredibly organized and thoughtful so I’m excited for this semester!

I met Cecilia Herles in the Institute of Women’s Studies as a first-year student, and she was the first professor who really listened to me and who encouraged me to dream big. Her class remains one of the hardest, most challenging courses I’ve ever taken (and I was taking organic chemistry that semester) but I’m not sure if I’ve ever grown more during any single term. Dr. Herles has mastered the balance of facilitating conversations among students while being able to interject with her expertise at just the right moments. She cares deeply for her students, and she is so involved outside of the classroom. I am truly grateful to have Dr. Herles as my advisor, mentor and friend.

I also deeply admire Melissa Davis in the genetics department, and I am so thankful to be a part of her lab. She is so brilliant, and she always has the best advice when I come to her in need of help. She is patient, kind and has created a lab community built on camaraderie and collaboration while conducting groundbreaking research on triple negative breast cancer. Outside of the lab, she makes time to actively give back to the community too. Dr. Davis is honest and real, which is why she’s so much fun to be around. She invests in and celebrates her students, and I never thought I’d find an exceptional research mentor and role model like her.

Eddie Higginbotham IV and Chase Hagood have been two advisors that have invested in me, who are always willing to take the time to listen and to cheer me on. Bill McDonald, our dean of students, is so committed to serving our student body, and I am very thankful for his advice and constant support. Victor Wilson, our vice president of student affairs, is someone who has always believed in me, and I’m just amazed by how he makes so much time for his students despite such a hectic schedule. I am deeply grateful to Elizabeth Hughes and Jessica Hunt in the Honors Program for being with me through every step of my medical school application process and for being so supportive of my ventures outside of medical school too. Finally, Dr. Barbara Schuster has been one of the greatest mentors I’ve had at the University of Georgia, and I wouldn’t be where I am right now without her wisdom, guidance and friendship.

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

… Dean William Tate and Dean Louise McBee. They served as the dean of men and dean of women for the university years ago (and Louise McBee went on to serve the university in many other capacities before becoming a state representative), but I still hear stories about how they fought for what was right, supported their students, and tirelessly gave back to the university. This school would not be what it is today without their leadership, and they’ve both left incredible legacies. I would love to hear them recount their experiences at Georgia and to listen to the wisdom they’ve accrued from decades of public service.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

… audition to be a backup dancer for Beyoncé because there’s no other way that I would make it!

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

… make sure that all women could access health care services and birth control without shame or prejudice. And I don’t mean “women” as an exclusive term — I’d include members of LBGT populations too that are often overlooked in this arena, including transgender men and gender nonconforming individuals. There are so many who can’t afford basic health care under existing policies, and there’s not enough being done to support and empower them. Health is so deeply personal but not everyone is able to exercise the autonomy they deserve in making decisions about their bodies, families and futures. If money wasn’t a consideration, so many people could be so much healthier, happier and able to lead richer lives.

I also think it’s worth remembering the arts. If money was ~truly~ not a consideration, I’d make sure to generously sponsor all the musical, dance, theatrical and artistic endeavors at the university too so that no one’s creativity has to be hampered by financial constraints.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

I am passionate about inclusivity. I’m committed to making sure that no one is left out, and while I know that’s a huge goal, there are so many ways to pursue it. On the individual level, I always try to sincerely listen to others, to bring people into conversations and ask them questions about their stories. At the organizational level, it involves paying attention to who isn’t at the table, and how I can encourage groups whose voices we want to hear get involved with our cause. I led the recruitment effort for The Arch Society this year, and I tried my best to reach students from all over campus, to tell them about our mission and how important it is for our group to represent the university that we serve. Finally, on a structural level, inclusivity involves being critical of systems that make life harder for certain marginalized groups. At this level, I’m interested in health care, specifically women’s health and addressing health disparities. I’m not exactly sure what pursuing inclusivity at the structural level will look like for me just yet, but I am excited about the possibilities! Over the years, I’ve learned that there is always room to improve my advocacy, and I look forward to a lifetime of growth as I continue to work toward inclusivity in all of my spheres.

After graduation, I plan to…

… attend medical school this fall. I’ve been accepted to some really wonderful schools, but I have some time before I have to decide where I’ll go. Right now, the plan is to specialize in women’s health and center women’s experiences while infusing clinical excellence with compassion and hope. I hope that my future patients will know that their voices matter, and that I will advocate for them regardless of their background to give them the care that they deserve.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

… the 2016 Homecoming game. The whole week leading up to it was so much fun, but standing on the field with my parents — who mean the whole wide world to me — and looking out at an enormous crowd filled with familiar faces was special. Feeling the love of the Bulldog Nation was an experience I will always cherish, and it meant so much to share that moment with my mom and dad.

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