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Alumnus explores health care and medicine across the globe

Paul Nanda | 1999 Alumnus, M.S. Biology | Biology Department Paul Nanda lives in a world of two realities. In one, he is a dedicated family physician providing his patients in Columbus, Ohio, the best health care available.

In another, he struggles to explain to poor villagers who need simple treatments to survive how there is nothing he can do to help them.

“My work has really painted a picture for me of what is wrong with health care across the world because of the discrepancy in the allocation of resources. We truly are a world of haves and have nots,” said Nanda, who earned a master’s degree in biology in 1999 from the School of Science at IUPUI.

He lists Zimbabwe as one of the most “life-altering” places he has worked. In 2006, he spent a month treating villagers at a mission hospital—a job he discovered himself through a random Google search as a second-year resident physician. For much of the past decade, Nanda has traveled the globe and treated the sick and wounded of all races, backgrounds and ages. In remote areas like Zimbabwe, Honduras, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and New Zealand, Nanda has witnessed more heartache than he cares to explain. Each experience, however difficult it may be, confirms for him the need for more trained doctors to commit to global health initiatives.

“Zimbabwe really has nothing, and there is such a poor support system and lack of resources,” he recalls. “To put things in perspective, Ohio has roughly 14 million people and is home to about 35,000 doctors. In Zimbabwe, where 30 percent of the population is infected with HIV, they have about 500 doctors for the entire country.”

The journey took its toll on him, personally and professionally. Experiences like delivering 24 babies in 24 days helped to offset the tragic circumstances of some patients who simply never had a chance at survival because of where they were born, he said.

He has learned to focus on the good he can do during his limited time in these troubled areas and the outcomes he can control—that’s what continues to drive him years later. Today, in addition to working as the regional director for Homegrown Urgent Care in Columbus, he also serves as a liaison to the Global Health Education Program at The Ohio State University, where he first served as a resident beginning in 2004.

Nanda graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington with a degree in biology before enrolling in the master’s program at IUPUI. A Windfall, Ind., native, he was always aware of the pre-med and research opportunities available in the Indianapolis area. He was drawn by the opportunity to conduct research in immunology, an early interest before he chose to pursue family medicine.

“What I found is I really enjoyed the teaching and interaction portion of being a graduate student more than the research,” he recalled of his time at IUPUI. “It really helped me in my critical thinking and taught me how to work in a lab and do work as a professional person in science.”

After being waitlisted for some medical schools with just a baccalaureate degree, Nanda found more opportunities once he earned his master’s degree and could showcase the research and publication experience he earned while at IUPUI.

He ultimately enrolled in the American University of the Caribbean in St. Maarten, where he first witnessed the gap in health care between the wealthy and impoverished and thought for the first time that “this is not right.”

Once he began his residency at OSU, he embarked on his first global health mission and has never stopped. He was the first family medicine resident ever do an international rotation during his tenure and now advises the family medicine program on its global initiatives.

Using experience gained from a global health mission to Honduras, Nanda also helped former OSU students launch the Partnership for Ongoing Development, Educational and Medical Outreach Solutions (PODEMOS www.podemosu.org), a group that continues to provide primary care services to communities in Honduras as well as global health experiences for students.

He still has his sights set on global health missions to Southeast Asia or Thailand, although his priority now is taking care of his family. He was just married in October.

Nanda said he hopes he can continue to work with future students interested in making an impact on a global level so he can help them discover the same rewards and satisfaction he has found in various parts of the world.

“I tell people interested in global health to find a mentor or find a resident doctor who has done it. You need someone you can talk to about the experience,” he said. “It’s scary to jump on a plane without knowing what you’re getting into. But, it will change your life forever.”

Watch a video interview with Dr. Paul Nanda:
Part 1
Part 2