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Making lives better

Posted August 9th, 2018, 10:14 AM IST

Making lives better

What makes an achiever? An indomitable spirit to go against the grain and create a world of difference or an unquenchable thirst for continual learning? Well, in Dr Kavitha Das’ case, it was an amalgamation of both, which steered her towards a fulfilling profession in the domain of public and international health.

Currently, a policy committee co-chair of the Public Health Association of New York City, the prosthodontist who is based out of Manhattan, has her roots in Bengaluru. Hailing from a family of doctors, the field of medicine wasn’t alien to her. In fact, Kavitha cannot remember a time when she wasn’t innately passionate about prevention and healthcare.





“Striving to help create better healthcare and prevention of diseases and improving the quality of life of the elderly was something I always focussed on. My aunt, who is 80, graduated from the US with a PhD and was the Vice Chancellor of Mysore University and a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha. My dad helped build Sanjay Gandhi Hospital when he was the director and I feel that I have large shoes to fill,” begins Kavitha, who works as a senior Scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. An alumnus of the prestigious Columbia University, Kavitha has extensively researched and worked on projects related to oral cancer among the South Asian population. “I graduated from my residency at Columbia University seven or eight years ago. I feel it’s still a work in progress and I’m learning every day. I like the fact that Babasaheb Ambedkar and Barack Obama are graduates from Columbia University. I have a long way to go.”

Early on, at the start of her career, Kavitha also worked closely with families inflicted by HIV/AIDS. Speaking of which she says, “This was right after I graduated. It was my first job, and it was a learning experience. I got hired to manage and work with children from HIV-infected families. Back then, India was the second largest country to be affected by AIDS. There has been increased awareness in the arena, for the better. It’s a lot easier to spread awareness and people are openly talking about it.”

This feisty woman with an Indian origin is also armed with a masters degree in social and behavioural science. But for now, she’s focussed on palliative care. “I think it’s crucial to come up with advanced techniques and mechanisms to minimise debilitating diseases. What inspires me the most is the urgent need for improved access to care. I’m surrounded by amazing mentors and people who are incredibly passionate about what they do. That motivates me,” she says.

As an advisor to the NGO Asia Initiatives, Kavitha played an instrumental part in putting together UN Secretary UN Ban Ki Moon Women’s Empowerment Award. While she did rub shoulders with Ban, Kavitha humbly puts it as a no-biggie. “It was in 2017. I met him at the Asia Initiatives Ban Ki Moon Women’s Empowerment Award that I helped set up. We do have a few projected in mind and will get implemented in a few months,” she divulges.

Despite having an impressive record in terms of professional contributions, Kavitha believes she has a long way to go. Speaking of the biggest takeaway from her career, she adds, “Working in the public health industry teaches you how there is so much value for human life. It has helped me value life, individual and personal health, and egged me on to frame policies as a sincere public health professional.”

While it is family that keeps her going, Kavitha does have a couple of activities that she loves to indulge in, while unwinding. “I love doing yoga, pilates, hiking and fund raising. Yes, setting up an art show, or a comedy festival to raise funds, which also helps me network and discover like-minded people are what I love doing in my free time. That aside, I pretty much do what most others do as a hobby – hang out with a close set of friends, eat and socialise,” concludes Kavitha.

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