Master of Public Health/MBA Student
Sneha Kanneganti’s connection with her family’s rural Indian roots and ancestral village began as a child, when she would travel from her city home in Bangalore to stay in her grandparents’ home in rural Andhra Pradesh. There she encountered swarms of mosquitoes and learned that water drawn from a tube well had to be boiled and filtered; there she discovered the importance of sanitation.
“Above all, I learnt what it meant to be afraid of falling sick, to know that there would be no doctor to help you, not for many miles around,” she says.
As a medical student, she spent two weeks in the small town of Kaiwara assessing health indicators, disinfecting village water supply tanks and providing door-to-door cataract screening. As a physician, she returned to work for six weeks in the Kaiwara Primary Health Center, providing care for 35,000 people from 36 villages.
“I witnessed many disheartening instances of patients being given substandard care because they were too poor and ill-informed to question their doctors,” she says. “And these were just the patients that managed to reach us, the ones who could pay for and suffer rough, long bus journeys along dusty, agonizingly bumpy mud roads to arrive at the clinic.”
After her time at the clinic, she worked for one of India’s top nonprofit ophthalmology centers where the guiding principle was equity in quality of care across all classes of society. Following this, she was a research fellow on a program for HIV-affected and infected children.
In 2009, Kanneganti’s family helped to found the Gowravam Sanitation Project, a community-based venture to ensure an open-defecation-free environment through awareness-building campaigns and construction of bathrooms for every house in the village.
Once armed with an MPH/MBA, Kanneganti plans to return to India to help close the gap between the quality of health care available to rural people and the urban elite.
“My journey into the field of public health has been an intensely personal one,” she says. “The concept of access to health care for all—be it preventive, primary or any other—was one that I grew up with, even before I could actually define the term itself.”