A third-year student, Komal Paradkar chose The Ohio State University not only because it is close to her home in Mason, Ohio but also because of the university’s many opportunities, including the number of undergraduate degrees offered. Ohio State’s 200 plus majors contributed to Komal’s decision to attend: the university is one of only a handful of colleges in the country to offer an undergraduate major in Biomedical Science. A partnership between the College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, this unique program provides access to medical research for undergraduate students. With an extensive application and interview process, the program admits only 25 freshmen each year: “I was proud to have been selected for this unique, specialized program that partners with the College of Medicine to provide students with an understanding of medicine holistically, especially through involvement in some of Ohio State’s leading research labs.”
Through her major, Komal has the opportunity to learn not only via traditional pre-medicine academic courses such as biology and chemistry but also to examine medical ethics, research techniques, and literature reviews. She has been able to take that classroom knowledge into the research lab to use for a specific project with Dr. Sadee, a Primary Investigator at the Center of Pharmacogenomics. “Since research is the basis of medicine, being involved throughout my undergraduate years will help me understand how medicine functions and evolves with current physician and patient needs, ultimately allowing me to become a better-informed physician.” Presently, Komal works with Dr. Sadee on a cardiovascular genetics project that studies a specific gene to look for a heart disease biomarker. Any genetic variations within that gene could indicate a correlation with the occurrence of heart disease. Komal choose this research because it will strengthen personalized medicine and to allow for medications that help control heart disease, which the World Health Organization has listed as the number one cause of death worldwide.
Besides offering the perfect major, Komal also chose Ohio State because even though the university is a predominantly-white institution, she was able to find programs that support and encourage underrepresented students. One such student organization – Ladies of Leadership – helped shape her freshman year. The organization grew from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Leadership Initiatives for Women of Color (LIWOC) PEACE Corp Peer Program created by Victoria Dunn, LIWOC’s director at the time. Ladies of Leadership (LOL) provides upper-level undergraduate women an opportunity to mentor first-year women of color and is advised by LIWOC. Komal stated that her freshman year was made easier with guidance from her LOL mentor: “As a first year woman of color, it can be hard to assimilate into this large university and find a specific niche. My mentor was a senior majoring in psychology, and she introduced me to various events and resources at Ohio State.” As an upperclassman, Komal was able to pay forward the mentoring she received, an experience she describes as “invigorating.” Komal also found support through an encounter with Victoria Dunn and LIWOC’s yearly Women of Color Retreat. “That weekend changed my outlook on life. Meeting other women in my position allowed me to understand that confidence comes from the core; it comes from being happy.”
In addition to the opportunities afforded her through LIWOC and Ladies of Leadership, Komal also participated this past Spring Break on a community service trip to Biloxi, Mississippi through Buck-i-Serv. While on the trip, Komal and her fellow students stayed in cabins in the woods with few amenities. “We worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every single day on landscaping, removing invasive species, and taking down playsets. It was hard work, and we would come back every night exhausted; yet each and every one of us worked tirelessly to ensure that we finished what we had started. It was inspirational watching everyone work with such positive attitudes.” As Komal and the other students worked, strangers, she said, would stop by and thank the students for what they were doing; for the citizens of Biloxi, picking up trash and donating a few hours of time had such a large impact. The experience was a positive one in other ways, too. “I have made lasting friendships through this trip and memories I will cherish forever. More importantly, I have learned that sometimes the smallest change can make the largest difference.”
Throughout her years as a student at Ohio State, Komal has come to understand that uncertainty and apprehension about her future and goals is normal. Coming to college, she continued, is a lot of trial and error, with students changing majors and even graduating still unsure about what direction their futures will take. She has no doubt that she will end up doing exactly what she was meant to do: “You don’t always end up where you think you will – there will always be other opportunities. So don’t close yourself up, allow yourself to explore other alternative and keep an open mind. I firmly believe that you will end up where you need to be.”
Support more programs and initiatives of the Leadership Initiatives for Women of Color by giving to the Leadership Initiatives for Women of Color Support Fund: 315132.