Through local volunteerism and work as an emergency medical technician, health promotion major, and aspiring physician Megan Anandappa is living her passion for community health.
B.S. in Health Promotion, Spanish Minor
What attracted you to a degree and/or certificate in public health?
Coming to UGA, I knew I wanted to eventually go to medical school, but I didn’t want to major in biology or chemistry. My dad works for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but I still didn’t know a lot about epidemiology or public health. I was interested in the prevention side of health and thought it would be a good supplement to and change from the hard science classes I would be taking. I decided I wanted to learn more, and I’m glad I chose to major in Health Promotion.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your time at the College?
Getting to volunteer as a tutor at Oasis Católico Santa Rafaela, for one of Dr. Katie Hein’s classes, was one of my favorite experiences during my time at UGA. Oasis is an after-school program for children age Pre-K to 5th grade in the Pinewoods community of Athens, Georgia. I worked with kindergartners, which was incredibly tiring and but also rewarding and I remember one experience that really stuck with me. One of my students always anxiously stared out the window towards the end of the afternoon. I initially felt frustrated as I tried to get him to concentrate on his work. One day he told me he got worried because he was scared his mom wouldn’t come to pick him up. I didn’t understand why a child so young would fear this, but he continued to tell me that “the police” had come in the middle of the night and taken his dad away. He was scared they would also take his mom. Although my parents are immigrants, I knew I could never fully understand his fear of having a parent taken away. So, every afternoon, instead of getting frustrated that he wouldn’t color or work on a puzzle-like the other kids, I let him tell me his fears, and I held his hand as he stood by the window. That little boy taught me more than I could ever teach him and I know I won’t forget him or his story.
Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?
Before the pandemic, I spent time volunteering with dementia patients at PruittHealth. I started volunteering my freshman year, so this was my first formal exposure to patient care. I had one patient who would sometimes be so confused that she would call me names and yell at me, not knowing who I was. Many of these patients, unfortunately, do not have a lot of human interaction throughout the day, so I simply talk to them or read them a book. I was nervous at first and was scared I wouldn’t know what to say; however, I quickly learned that sometimes all patients need is a hand to hold and an ear to listen. Seeing their eyes light up when I simply ask how their day is going, even if they never remember me, has taught me the power of compassion and the importance of connecting with patients.
How has the current pandemic impacted your educational experience at UGA and CPH? What insights have you gained as a public health student?
The pandemic has certainly created a unique and unexpected learning environment, which makes it harder to communicate with other students and professors. You can’t just go ask your professor a question after class or talk to other students sitting around you. With this being my last semester taking classes before my internship, it is hard knowing that I won’t ever have any in-person classes with my cohort before we graduate. On the other hand, having primarily online learning has resulted in much more flexibility with assignments and schedules. I am able to work more and do other things I like since I don’t have to be in class at a certain time. I do think that it is fascinating how adaptable the College has been at transitioning to online coursework; it shows how capable we are of handling a public health crisis, which is exactly what we are training and preparing for in our future careers.
Do you have any external activities that you are passionate about?
Besides school and studying, I spend most of my time working as an EMT at National EMS in Athens. For the past couple of years, working as an EMT has been an escape from the stress of school; I honestly love directly working with patients, which has only further confirmed my goal of being a physician. Also, many of my experiences in EMS have paralleled a lot of topics discussed in my health promotion classes. I have witnessed many of the community health issues that we discussed in Dr. Hein and Dr. Chrissy Proctor’s classes (in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior), from community members calling 911 due to lack of primary care, insurance, transportation, or drug and alcohol problems.
What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to attend medical school next fall and hope to eventually specialize in either pediatric emergency medicine or neonatology.
Posted on December 16, 2020.