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.
What’s a piece of advice you’ve received that has impacted your career journey?
I don’t know if there is just one piece of advice that impacted my career journey. My interactions with national and international experts in disaster relief during the 2015 Nepal earthquake changed my career path forever.
Do you have a mentor you’d like to recognize? If so, what would you like to say to them?
Every individual that I meet can have an impact on me in one way or another. I try to remember this always. I want to be actively engaged in learning especially from others always. Also, I have experienced that people and the different perspectives they may share can provide mentorship to me in almost all aspects of life. I try always to be openly appreciative of this and the time they share.
What advice would you give a young professional beginning their career in your field?
Communication in public health is critical. You may have all the knowledge, skills, and the best intentions but unless you can talk with the public in a way that provides helpful information and builds trust you will not be able to impact positive change. It is important to take time to listen to concerns, fully appreciate them and respond in a meaningful way in order to best meet a community and its people’s needs.
If you could do one thing, leave one mark, on your profession, what would it be?
I have had the opportunity to work in Nepal with youth and communities on trafficking. Most of the traditional services if available there, have been developed to meet the needs of individuals who have already been victimized. My work focuses on prevention, educating communities about how to protect themselves and their loved ones. In addition, the work addresses changing cultural norms. Trafficking victims have been traditionally ostracized. In supporting communities to change harmful attitudes and beliefs, you empower a community and its people to support one another and build resiliency.
Name a challenge you’ve faced and how it turned out.
In the early days of my career, I worked as the Medical Superintendent of a district hospital in rural Nepal. It was my first appointment as a “public” servant. As manager of a district hospital, I led a small group of staff members for a population of almost 25,000 in our catchment areas. I had clinical and administrative responsibilities in addition to occasional supervising of nursing and paramedics students.
These years of managerial and clinical experience taught me more than I could ever have learned in a university setting. It exposed me to the best and the worst of situations. The constraint of resources, patient load, and difficulties of running the administration while envisioning a sound medical center were more than overwhelming even on the best of days.
The biggest challenge for me was the devastating earthquake and its aftershocks in 2015. My workplace was one of the districts most severely damaged. Our hospital served as the primary and the only referral site for many health centers and a large population. There was an influx of patients needing critical care. Even though we had no shelter to cover our heads and the earth beneath our feet was still shaking, we had to manage more than 300 patients just on the first day. My greatest challenge was to take care of all the wounded and injured while still coordinating my panic-stricken staff, ensuring their safety, and arranging for their food and shelter. We all made it through this experience together and I believe for most of us a different people thereafter.
What is your ultimate career goal as you see it today?
My ultimate career goal isn’t determined by one position or another. What is essential for me is to continue to challenge myself every day in learning and at work. A personal goal however will always be to be in a position that would allow me to create a meaningful change in the field of public health for people and communities with limited resources.
What alternate role(s) would you be interested in pursuing?
Life is a journey. I consider myself open to all opportunities as well as the challenges they can bring my way. For my alternate role, I am sure I will be pursuing something that will provide me with a new learning experience, new challenges as well as adventure.
What core values are important to succeeding in your professional field?
It is essential to be engaged in active learning, be disciplined, and be fully committed to the field and those you serve.
Ten years ago, I thought I would be …
Ten years ago, I was in the final years of medical school. I believed I would continue to practice as a physician for the rest of my life. This all changed with the 2015 Nepal earthquake the learning experiences from that time and the challenges it brought with it.
Ten years from now, I want to be …
I want to be actively engaged in something I love. I hope to be healthy, and open to new learning and personal growth.
Would you want to acknowledge any family/friends/partners (beyond mentors)? If so, who?
My parents sacrificed endlessly in their lives just to make sure that I had the best education, learning opportunities, and health care. Together, they created an environment that was built upon a commitment to learning. Along with this, they instilled the values of hard work, discipline, and respect. The older I get the more I recognize how deeply they were committed to my success. I cannot be more grateful to them.
Please indicate your hometown, place of study, degree field(s), and an interesting fact about yourself.
I come from a remote rural mountainous village in Nepal called Jumla. Not until very long ago we were still not connected by roadways, the only way to reach in or out was by trekking or flying. This is one of the reasons that inspired me to get my pilot’s license.
Interview prepared by Oriana Valderrama
Feature Image: Roshan Khatri, personal archive