Devika Bagchi

UMMS Class of 2021 (MD/PhD)

Why UMMS? I knew that UMMS would be the perfect fit for me on my interview day. As an MD/PhD student planning to do my PhD in the basic sciences, I knew that it would be a challenge to find a program that would also allow me to pursue my passion for public and global health. From the minute I stepped on the UMMS campus, I was impressed by the interdisciplinary and collaborative environment, the supportive faculty members, and the infectious school spirit and love for Michigan that the students exude. My time here at Michigan has convinced me further that I absolutely made the right choice - "if you can dream it, you can do it” is not just an ideal here, it’s reality. Go Blue! 

When did you first develop an interest in global health? I first became interested in global health during my undergraduate years at Washington University in St. Louis. I had the opportunity to lead the Wash U chapter of GlobeMed, a student-run nonprofit organization that pairs university chapters with existing grassroots organizations in low-resource areas around the world in an effort to develop sustainable interventions. GlobeMed Wash U has a longterm partnership with Ugandan Health and Development Associates (UDHA),  located in Iganga, Uganda. In Uganda, 16% of children under the age of 5 and 12% of women are malnourished. I was part of an interdisciplinary team that worked closely with the local community to develop multi-faceted interventions to improve the nutritional status of women and children in the local community. Through this work, I learned firsthand that we must address the problems underlying oppression and inadequate access to healthcare. Only then will we see sustainable change. 

Medical speciality area and why? While I have several years before I need to choose a medical speciality, I am currently leaning towards either Emergency Medicine or Pediatrics (or both!). The ED is a place where healthcare providers come together to help all people, especially the most vulnerable individuals in our society who have nowhere else to turn. In the ED, we are uniquely positioned to confront and address head-on the stark realities of health care disparities within our communities. I’m also drawn to Pediatrics because I have become convinced through both my global health experiences and basic science research that health during early life can have long-lasting effects into adulthood. Both Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine embody the values closest to my heart: compassionate care for the most vulnerable populations and a desire to improve community health.

Devika is shown with a resident of Grace Care Center in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Can you provide us with a brief view into any international experiences you’ve participated in as a UMMS student? During my M1 year here at UMMS, I was looking for an opportunity to get involved in an initiative that strove to break down barriers to access to quality healthcare. I began to work alongside Dr. Naresh Gunaratnam to develop a novel telemedicine healthcare model that leverages the increasing access to technology globally. Grace Care Center (GCC) is a residential facility in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka that provides care to elders and orphaned girls, most of whom are victims of poverty, the Sri Lankan Civil War, and the 2004 Tsunami. As with many facilities in rural and developing communities, the residents of GCC have limited access to healthcare. Although there is a nearby hospital for acute conditions, the only consistent care that GCC residents receive is from a volunteering nurse practitioner who comes to Grace for an hour each month during her lunch break. We aimed to develop a paradigm of care in which we as medical providers can remotely manage chronic illnesses that do not depend heavily on the physical exam, including hypertension, through weekly videoconferencing sessions and a modified electronic medical record. With this initiative, we are aiming to apply telemedicine principles to bring awareness to the need for preventive care in developing communities. Due to the prevalence of infectious diseases and other acute illnesses and a lack of resources, these upstream preventive efforts have not been a priority in many developing communities. However, as the burden of illnesses shifts from acute to chronic conditions globally, preventive efforts must play a more central role in medicine worldwide. By focusing on managing upstream conditions, such as hypertension, we hope to minimize more downstream emergent conditions. 

During the summer after my M1 year, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Grace to conduct an onsite needs assessment and identify areas that need to be addressed moving forward. After returning from Sri Lanka, we were able to modify and further refine our healthcare model, and our work was chosen as a Spotlight Commitment at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative University conference. Today, among other initiatives, we are honing our paradigm of care to specifically address the diagnosis and management of diabetes in Sri Lanka. 

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