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Sid Zadey: Boston Congress of Public Health 40 Under 40 Winner

The inaugural 40 Under 40 Public Health Catalyst Awards aim to highlight the rising leaders and innovators of the public health field. The Boston Congress of Public Health (BCPH) and the HPHR Journal selected a group of “leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists”, and doctors that will inspire the next generations of public health workers to change the world. The individuals featured for this award have not only shown excellent work performance and an extensive academic history but have also brought innovative solutions to public health issues around the world.

The NYC Daily Post interviewed 40 under 40 award winners to learn about their career journeys leading up to their nominations.

Q1. What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?

 As my background banner on Twitter will show, arguably the most existential advice that I try to live by is – “This too shall pass”. It keeps me grounded in good times, and helps me endure bad times. 

Q2. Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?

I have had several mentors throughout. In fact, I often feel that the only thing that I am decent at doing is figuring out excellent mentors and following them. To name a few, Prof. Nishikant Subhedar, Dr. Suhita Nadkarni, Dr. Edward Hubbard, Prof. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Dr. Joao Vissoci, and Dr. Tamara Fitzgerald. To all these and several other people, I just want to convey a heartfelt thanks for guiding me, correcting me, helping me, and building me as a researcher and more importantly as a person. 

Q3. What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?

Several young ambitious students that I get to meet want to work in the biggest labs, publish quickly and cross milestones early on – understandably so. But this approach can put a lot of unnecessary pressure. A good idea is not to worry too much about such “goals” and work on learning skills, figuring out what you truly enjoy, and what you feel purposeful about, and focus on that. 

Q4. If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?

As impossible as it might sound, I would like to solve addiction (or substance use issues) as a social problem – contribute to creating a world, where young people at risk can be identified in a timely manner and their problems can be prevented, while those in need of care get the evidence-based and humane treatment that they deserve. Solving addiction can have transcendental effects on broader economy and mitigate other problems such as violence against women and children, crime rates, road traffic accidents, and noncommunicable disease burden among several others. 

Q5. Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.

The last two years, during the pandemic, have been challenging for all. For me living away from family for such as extended duration was quite difficult. Later in 2021, when I traveled to India, I met my mom and dad in person after 849 days. Seeing them after such a long time made up for the fortress of solitude of 849 days. 

Q6. What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?

To be a health systems scientist working on the most neglected problems of people around the world. Physicians have the incredible gift to save one life at a time. However, as our society expands and the global world becomes increasingly interconnected, we are going to need health system scientists, working with others, to help save millions of lives at a time. 

Q7. What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?

Be a writer. 

Q8. What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?

Centering your worldview around achieving equity. Equity cannot just be an abstract guiding principle; it has to be a directly and timely achievable outcome. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that health systems around the world do little to actively curb disparities. For instance, as the people belonging to the higher-middle and middle classes in India received COVID tests in their homes in the metropolitan cities, the migrant laborers and those in the rural areas were left untested and untreated. Globally, no pact for ensuring vaccine equity truly worked. While US residents have received three vaccine doses, the entire African continent is still struggling to complete its first round of COVID vaccinations. It is absurd to imagine universal healthcare or “health for all” without first centering our systems, processes, policies, and politics around health equity and social justice.

Q9. Ten years ago, I thought I would be…

A great scientist/researcher

Q10. Ten years from now, I want to be …

A good scientist/researcher 

Q11. Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?

My late grandfather (Vinayak Paralikar). I try every single day to be the half-decent and strong man that he was. My parents, Drs. Varsha and Gajanan Zadey showed me through their work what physicians with the utmost integrity and highest regard for their patients look like. They introduced me to the wonderful worlds of science, medicine, literature, and music. My partner, Dr. Sweta Dubey, is a constant source of sanity for me. 

Q12. Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.

I am from Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, which also happens to be the geographical center of the country. I completed my Bachelor of Science Master of Science (BSMS) dual degree from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune, India. For my master’s thesis, I worked with Prof. Alvaro Pascual-Leone at the Harvard Medical School – Boston, Massachusetts on neurophysiological biomarkers for cognition in Alzheimer’s Dementia. I completed a Master of Science in Global Health (MScGH) from Duke Global Health Institute – Durham, North Carolina. For the thesis, I worked with Dr. Joao Vissoci on rural surgical care in India. The most interesting fact would probably be that I have previously composed an anthology of poems in my native language – Marathi, titled: Thode Nabhatun Thode Sareetun (translation: Some from the skies, Some from the seas)

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