Before Sagar Chawla discovered his love of medicine, he spent years nurturing a passion for public health. It was sparked in high school when he participated in the annual World Food Prize Global Youth Institute event on global food security in Des Moines, Iowa. After graduating, he conducted research on flood-tolerant rice at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Philippines.
“It was the first time I saw health tied so closely to people’s general well-being,” he says. “Something clicked and I became interested in global health.”
Undergraduate studies took Chawla to the foothills of the Himalayas in India, where he created a prototype design for a solar food dryer made of locally sourced material. He also assessed child malnutrition while analyzing the efficacy of educational seminars and materials.
“I saw that agriculture wasn’t in a vacuum but was connected to social, environmental, health and economic aspects,” he says.
After his first year at the Mayo Medical School, he spent a month at Bwindi Community Hospital in rural Uganda, working with one of the most underserved populations in the world: the exiled Batwa pygmy population. There, he aided the hospital’s orthopedic surgeon, helping to fashion surgical implants out of scrap metal.
“Getting involved in the operating room in an underserved facility opened my eyes to the possibilities of doing surgical intervention in these areas,” he says. “I was hooked.”
Chawla knew when he started an MD program that he also wanted to pursue an MPH. His hope is to put his degrees to work to improve the delivery of surgical care to resource-limited populations.
“The communities I’ve worked in have been marginalized by society, nature, the environment or economics,” he says. “Their rich traditions and the amazing stories they tell about who they are draw me toward working with them in the future.”
Resident Surgeon, Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Residency, University of Washington