Rashna Ginwalla '95 is building her entire medical career around a desire to bring her skills—and her voice—to those who are most in need.
Originally, she planned to be a heart surgeon. However, more than four years into her residency, Rashna realized it was the wrong path. "I love heart surgery, but it would never give me time to pursue my interest in international health work," says Rashna, who represented India as a UWC-USA student.
Rashna changed gears and is now a fellow in trauma and emergency surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center. It was in this role that she achieved a long-time dream: volunteering with Médecins Sans Frontières, the international emergency relief organization. Rashna spent a month in 2012 as a trauma surgeon in Nigeria, providing free emergency care to some of Nigeria's poorest people.
"I wanted to work with MSF for a long time," she says. "I wrote to them as an undergraduate, but they didn't have a role for me yet. I kept pestering; I just wanted to work with them!"
Rashna says she chose MSF because "they don't stay quiet. They bear witness, and they'll make a political statement."
She's not one to stay quiet, either. In addition to her surgery fellowship, Rashna is pursuing a master's degree in public health. "Physicians have so much power we don't use," she says. "We need to get in the faces of policy-makers and say, 'Come to my ER and see the experiences of my patients, then tell me what is good for them.'"
Eventually, Rashna says she'd like to merge her experience as a doctor with a career in international health policy "to change things at a higher level." For now, though, she's focused on saving one patient at a time. She also hopes to do another mission with MSF.
"I want to spend time providing service to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to get it," Rashna says.