The American Public Health Association awarded UTHealth School of Public Health student Anisha Somani the 2019 Excellence in Public Health Award for her commitment to advocacy, effective policy, and enriching the learning environments of the academic institutions she has attended.
Somani has been working in the field of public health since the beginning of her academic career. During her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Somani worked as a health and science reporter at the UCLA Daily Bruin, covering stories that ranged from the shortage of feminine hygiene products in homeless shelters to the lack of education about LGBTQ healthcare during medical training. Her work in public health has also taken her abroad. In Tijuana, Mexico, Somani worked with the Fellowship for International Service and Health (FISH) to address basic health needs in the area, such as checking blood sugar levels, providing diet and exercise information and distributing prenatal vitamins. In Mudanjiang, China, Somani worked with elementary and middle schools to promote healthy habits for the prevention of preventable medical conditions, such as handwashing, tooth brushing, and healthy eating and dieting habits.
Somani is an MD/MPH dual-degree student, studying at both McGovern Medical School and UTHealth School of Public Health. For her MPH practicum, Somani researched within the Pediatric Infectious Disease division. Somani also designed a study that examined factors associated with a patient’s disclosure of their HIV serostatus to better understand how the psychological factors impact the health of adolescents and mothers who live with HIV. Somani’s work on this subject was recognized at the 2018 HIV/STD Conference in Austin, Texas, and her oral presentation earned her a nomination for the Student Research Award.
During her second year of medical school, Somani served as policy chair for the American Medical Association/Texas Medical Association (AMA/TMA) chapter at McGovern Medical School. In this position, Somani developed a lecture series to enlighten current medical students on the ways policy can impact healthcare and inspire students to impact policy and shape healthcare as physicians by writing resolutions for AMA/TMA.
During her third year of medical school, Somani volunteered at Kidney Kamp as a counselor for children and adolescents with renal impairment.
Somani currently serves as a clinical volunteer for HOMES, a free clinic for patients who are homeless in Houston, TX and is a member of the Scholarly Concentration in Medical Humanities. This organization allows Somani to promote discussion on disability and health, mental health and mental disorders, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health, public health infrastructure and health-related quality of life and well-being topics.
On her decision to pursue a dual degree, Somani says, “My decision to get involved with public health initiatives was about looking at the overall picture. Collaboration between public health and medical professionals is important in order to develop effective, targeted initiatives that can improve the health and well-being of our communities.”
The APHA Excellence in Public Health Award is given each year to a living individual in recognition of his/her exceptionally meritorious contribution to the improvement of the health of the people.