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Sommer Scholars

Jerome Chelliah, MD, MPH

  • Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
  • MPH '15

Growing up in the midst of the Sri Lankan civil war, I spent much of my childhood bearing witness to societal inequities. Most striking was the disparity in health care access and delivery between the Tamil minority and the Singhalese majority. It was clear that in Sri Lanka “health” belonged to the privileged; legal, socioeconomic and educational barriers were in place to ensure that it remained so. Upon immigrating to America, I discovered similar barriers to health for the LGBT population and communities of color. These thematic repetitions of inequity ignited in me a deep desire for a life committed to justice through medicine and public service. In college, my own journey into adulthood as a queer man of color was influenced by my community of transgender classmates. We collectively navigated the feelings of being “foreign,” both geographically and socially. These narratives of being “otherized,” especially pronounced within health care for my transgender colleagues, motivated me to further explore LGBT health. Stories of prejudice, coupled with stories of limited access to care, drove me to lead a collective effort to mitigate these disparities on an institution level. One result was the inclusion of transgender health benefits into the UC Davis student health insurance plan. Later, as a medical student working with Queer Lifespace, an organization providing services for low-income LGBT individuals, I witnessed productive health care interactions in safe environments. This showed me that drastic changes can happen in society and in health care in a short period of time.

Current Position

Resident Physician - OB/GYN, Kaiser Permanente