“You get better at science by doing it, not just studying it”

Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10.

“You get better at science by doing it, not just studying it”—Pranay Sinha ’09

Pranay Sinha came to Adelphi University from Pune, India. Within weeks of arriving in America, he was working in the University’s genetics lab with Adelphi Professor Lawrence Hobbie. “You get better at science by doing it, not just studying it,” Mr. Sinha said. 

He credited the hands-on experiences he had outside of the classroom with helping him to land a job at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory immediately after graduating from Adelphi. Fast forward a few years and today you’ll find him pursuing his medical degree at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. 

As a first year medical student, he had aspirations to go abroad to conduct research. In summer 2011, he traveled to the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, where he spent five weeks examining links between early childhood malnutrition and persistent cognitive impairment. Weekdays were spent collecting research data and weekends doing community health screenings: “It was intense. Three of us would see as many as 700 patients in a day, symptomatic of the tremendous shortage of healthcare in rural India. It was humbling, educational and occasionally heart-breaking.” 

Throughout this experience he maintained his blog Summer in Vellore. “Getting into medical school is difficult,” he said. “I feel incredibly lucky, and want to share the knowledge and perspective I have gained as a medical student with people who don’t have the same fortune.” Mr. Sinha said that he returned to America with a more sophisticated idea of global health. “Those were the most transformative five weeks of my life…I don’t think I’ve recovered yet from the reverse culture shock.” 

The following year, the University of Virginia School of Medicine nominated him to go to Emory University, which was hosting an International Global Health Case Competition. Students from diverse fields of study came together to address a complex case on public health in post-civil war Sri Lanka and generate realistic and implementable recommendations. 

“I was initially skeptical,” he said. “But I went, and worked with a team with students from majors as diverse as engineering, nursing, anthropology, and public policy. Together we could see the problem in greater resolution and come up with better ideas than we could as isolated individuals.”

Mr. Sinha decided U.Va. needed a similar forum to encourage a culture of innovation on its campus and among its thinkers. By 2013, he had collaborated with his friends and organized the inaugural U.Va. Global Health Case Competition. He, along with other student-writers from different schools, wrote the case. They incorporated commerce, urban planning, healthcare and cultural issues to create a multi-faceted case on multi-drug- resistant tuberculosis in the slums of Mumbai. Interdisciplinary teams then assessed the problems presented and proposed real solutions. 

“Undergraduate and graduate student have brilliant ideas,” said Mr. Sinha. “This is an opportunity to incentivize students to converse with other students who think in radically different ways. Truly revolutionary ideas are born this way; it’s really exciting.” 

While Mr. Sinha is a self-described “global health person,” he recognizes that change starts locally. For the third year in a row, he and fellow medical students at U.Va. have developed and implemented a diabetes screening for the residents of Charlottesville to help prevent people, who may have been undiagnosed for years, from having to face severe complications from the disease. Since they started, Mr. Sinha and his colleagues have detected approximately 50 cases of diabetes in people who didn’t know they had the disease, educated them about the disease, and assisted them in finding professional help. “At Adelphi, I was encouraged to start things,” he said. “I got used to the concept of trying out new ideas.” 

Mr. Sinha is spending his last year of medical school working on medical student education and patient education related projects. He is also helping improve and expand his community health projects. Next year, he begins his residency in internal medicine. Where does he see himself ten years from now? 

“I want to do everything. But I’ll stick to the things I can’t live without doing: clinical practice; I treasure the relationship with the patient; writing, I think bridging the chasm of jargon between doctors and patients is imperative; and teaching, which makes me feel connected to physicians from centuries ago, part of a tradition. So I hope to be an academic physician, dabbling in global health issues, advocating and consulting in that field.” 

Mr. Sinha credited his professors at Adelphi, who generously offered their time, attention, and intellect to him, with pushing him to take seemingly disparate pieces of information and synthesize ideas from them. This, he said, provided him with the foundation to assess a problem from different lenses and plot a solution. 

“At Adelphi, I had amazing professors. The most interesting moments took place outside of the classroom and inside my professors’ offices,” he said of Professors Hobbie, Michelson, Weeks, Schoenfeld, Kelly, Della Croce, and Garner. “I owe everything I am today to the attention and love I received at Adelphi.”

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