Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/29/2013

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Bina Valsangkar, M.D., MPH, Class of 2008
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Community Empowerment Lab

I was fortunate to be the recipient of a Reynolds Foundation Fellowship while pursuing a Master’s at The Harvard School of Public Health in 2007-2008. The fellowship came at a crucial time in my career development. I became a fellow three years after founding and developing a public health nonprofit organization during my medical education. The organization, The Quito Project, works in collaboration with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health and local public school systems to develop, test, and scale programs in health and education for vulnerable populations. Although my colleagues, professors and mentors were always extremely supportive of my work in Ecuador, my passions fell outside the mainstream of medical education, and I felt a sense of relief and exhilaration to be surrounded by fellow social entrepreneurs as a Reynolds Fellow. For a student of medicine and public health approaching graduation, this feeling was invaluable and gave me the strength and courage to continue pursuing my passions.

Since graduation from Harvard and the University of Michigan Medical School, I completed pediatrics residency training at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where I had the opportunity to gain intensive training in general pediatrics, and continue to pursue my work with The Quito Project, which continues to grow and make an impact in under fresh leadership.

Immediately after completing residency training and marrying my husband Nicolas, we moved to India, where we both now work for a public health start-up called Community Empowerment Lab.  Our lab is situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where one in ten newborn deaths in the world takes place.  I joined as a research scientist and project manager, helping lead a scale-up of essential newborn care to a population of 75 million. My job requires merging scientifically proven essential newborn care practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding, umbilical cord care, and skin-to-skin care, with a cultural approach to relevant rural Uttar Pradesh. This experience has been tremendously challenging and rewarding.  I also serve as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University, which gives me the opportunity to mentor students and trainees interested in global health, and create a supportive, like-minded environment, similar to the one that the Reynolds Foundation provided me.

I am grateful to the Reynolds Foundation for giving me the courage to pursue a less-traveled career path for medical doctors.  It strengthened and validated professional inclinations that I had felt early in my education and training, and has allowed me to use my skills for the greater social good.

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