Indian American medical student receives two national fellowships

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Devesh Vashishta (Courtesy: switzernetwork.org)

NEW YORK – Indian American Devesh Vashishtha, a fourth year medical student at the University of California in San Diego, has been awarded two national fellowships, one in family medicine and the other in environmental stewardship, according to a university press release.

Vashishtha is one of six medical students in the country to be selected for the 2017 Pisacano Scholars Leadership Program, which awarded by the American Board of Family Medicine in order to foster the professional development of individuals identified as being future leaders in family medicine.

Vashishtha was also awarded a 2017 Switzer Fellowship from the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation, the only medical student to receive the award in order to support his interest in environmental justice and public health, according to the press release.

“My end goal is to shape health policy. The issues that inspire me are improving people’s access to primary care, disease prevention and early interventions that can both improve public health and lower the total cost of health care,” Vashishtha stated in the press release.

“We need primary care to address public health crises like obesity and diabetes, and we need physician payer models that incentivize keeping patients healthy,” he added.

The press release states that Vashishtha gained his interest in environmentalism from his parents, who are both scientists with a passion for protecting the natural world for future generations.

“I grew up in an environmentally conscious household. My dad went to unusual lengths to protect the environment. He would take glass containers and cups to parties so we didn’t use Styrofoam. Environmentalism is in my consciousness and upbringing,” Vashishtha told the university.

Vashishtha is also one of the founding members of the 2015 Hindu Declaration on Climate Change, which calls out to Hindus worldwide to “lead lives in harmony and balances with the natural world” as well as the U.C. San Diego chapter lead for Student Physicians for Social Responsibility, which seeks to highlight the medical problems caused by environmental degradation, among other topics and has lobbied in Washington, D.C. for clean power policies, according to the university press release.

“Climate change will increase the global burden of infectious diseases such as malaria, Zika and Lyme disease. We are also seeing changes in pollen patterns and increases in asthma diagnoses. We know that the poor and people of color will be the hardest hit. My interest in climate change is closely tied to my interest in public health and disease prevention,” he told the university.

Vashishtha is a U.C. medical scholar and former U.C. regents scholar who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at UCSD, he is also a singer of traditional Indian music and avid student of the Hindu Vedanta philosophical tradition, according to the press release.

According to the press release, Vashishtha has interned with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to help pass the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which guarantees that private-sector workers earn paid sick leave.

Vashishtha has served as a legislative contact for the California Academy of Family Physicians as well and most recently advocated for increased funding to medical residency programs in underserved areas.

Upon completing his medical degree, Vashishtha plans to begin a three-year residency in family medicine. His goal is to eventually run for public office.

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