A Student Highlight Featuring MPH Student Deepthi Nishi Velamuri
Deepthi Nishi Velamuri worked as a doctor in Nepal for seven years prior to coming to GPH. During that time she witnessed many patients suffering from preventable illnesses, such as STIs, due to nothing more than a lack of information. “In Nepal, girls would get married at a very young age and start bearing children. They hardly have time to go to school, or are stopped from completing their education. And since mothers don’t have much knowledge about health issues and safe sex practices, they don’t discuss this with their children. And the cycle repeats.”
After this experience, Deepthi realized that she could have a greater impact on people’s health by working on a bigger scale. “Being a doctor, I just deal with one patient and their symptoms; I’m trying to cure a disease that’s already occurred. If I’m able to provide the right information before the disease occurs, and help a whole community, that would fulfill my goals.” This led her to pursue an MPH in Epidemiology here at GPH.
After courses in epidemiology, biostatistics and global health informatics, Deepthi completed a summer internship at the Colon Cancer Foundation. Her research focused on analyzing disparities in colorectal cancer screening rates, and she synthesized information on evidence-based interventions that would help to increase these rates. “I found that early detection of colon cancer can prevent 80 percent of cases from progressing and worsening to the point where they are untreatable. So public awareness-focused interventions need to occur earlier,” she said.
Deepthi’s internship, which she saw listed in GPH’s Public Health Post, enabled her to take lessons from the classroom and put them to practical use. “This experience reinforced my belief that public health comes not only from studying textbooks, but from engaging directly with communities to understand health behaviors and implement data-driven solutions,” she said. “I refined critical communication skills that I’ll carry throughout my career.”
Currently, Deepthi is putting those skills to good use in her thesis, which focuses on a cross-sectional study of marijuana usage among teens prior to legalization. Her interest in public awareness and education has led in a new direction, and she hopes her thesis will contribute to the body of knowledge that is used to develop appropriate curricula to educate teens and prevent marijuana usage. “Education is the most important tool a person can have,” Deepthi says. It’s also the reason that she intends to focus on nonprofit work after graduation. “Public health and education go hand-in-hand.”