Student Highlight – Dr. Ketki Patel was born in Gujarat, India, and brought up in Mumbai. She became interested in community service as a student, participating in fundraising activities and volunteering in tobacco cessation programs, malaria prevention programs, and polio immunization camps. She graduated as a physician from Vitebsk State Medical University, Republic of Belarus. Returning to India, Dr. Patel worked at a tertiary care teaching hospital in rural Gujarat. At the same time that she was practicing medicine, she worked as a public health research trainee and assisted in a variety of projects, including anthropometric surveys, cardiovascular disease epidemiology, and silicosis research. To increase her knowledge and develop the skills needed to work in the community, Dr. Patel decided to pursue the certificate program in public health offered by the COPH in collaboration with the Asian Institute of Public Health (AIPH), Odisha, India, via distance-learning mode.
The distance-learning mode came with technical challenges. But the faculty and staff at both UNMC and AIPH facilitated the learning process and ensured a positive educational experience. As a distance-learning student, Dr. Patel had the opportunity to assist the staff and faculty in resolving the challenges and actively participate in helping fellow distance learners in India. Dr. Patel says, “I now understand the intricacies of a capacity-building program using information technology in a developing country.” Dr. Patel’s successful completion of the certificate program led her to pursue an MPH degree in the Environmental and Occupational Health Concentration at UNMC COPH.
Dr. Patel finds that the diverse faculty, international student body, and sociable atmosphere of the COPH support her professional growth. She currently works with Dr. Pinaki Panigrahi and Dr. Dinesh Chandel as a research assistant at the Center for Global Health and Development laboratory. The lab is currently working on an NIH-funded global network project established under the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on prevention of neonatal sepsis and use of probiotics in an Indian community. Working with the lab has helped Dr. Patel develop skills with molecular techniques that she intends to use in developing a new project in the near future. As a versatile researcher, she is also interested in learning more about respiratory toxicants under the guidance of her advisor, Dr. Todd Wyatt.
Dr. Patel anticipates entering a graduate program in the future to explore research areas in environmental respiratory toxicants. Although academia and research appeal to Dr. Patel, ultimately she hopes to apply her learning and research experience in ways that directly affect community welfare.