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Sommer Scholars

Prashasti Bhatnagar

  • Country of Origin: India
  • MPH/JD

A HEALTH SYSTEM FOR ALL

The summer after her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Prashasti Bhatnagar experienced severe heart palpitations. Her doctors recommended cardiac monitoring.

But following that advice proved challenging. As an international student from India, she needed to carefully manage her finances to pay for the monitoring device and medical care. However, doctor after doctor couldn’t tell her how much her college insurance plan would reasonably cover—if anything. Unsure whether she could afford the expense, Bhatnagar delayed care, a decision that categorized her as a “difficult patient” in the eyes of her health care providers.

“Within two weeks, I went from being a pre-med student with extensive knowledge of medical sciences to another Brown noncompliant patient who didn’t know what was right for her,” she says.

Bhatnagar’s experience with health inequity reminded her of her uncle’s story. He lost his battle with muscular dystrophy when she was just a year old, she says, due to a U.S. health care system that didn’t allow heart transplants for non-citizens. Bhatnagar’s and her uncle’s experiences with health care in the U.S—delayed treatment and ultimately death—changed her life plan. Instead of applying to medical school, she decided to enroll in a combined law and public health program at the Bloomberg School and Georgetown Law, and will graduate with an MPH/JD in 2022. “A robust public health education from Johns Hopkins will set the foundation for me,” she says, “to build just systems of care that support historically disenfranchised communities and make health care an affordable and accessible human right for all.”