Purdue HHS student responder reflects on well-rounded and unforgettable Purdue experience

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

You can’t find people like this anywhere else. They’re so energetic and so passionate about Purdue that you really can’t miss out on this experience. I never knew what Purdue was coming in. I’d never visited Purdue, but I just fell in love with the campus, the people and the traditions. It was everything I could expect and want.

Parikshit Pawar

Division V commencement student responder

Senior Parikshit Pawar has known since his sophomore year of high school that he wanted to be a doctor, so when he learned about the School of Health Sciences within Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS), it seemed like a natural fit to leave Austin, Texas, and come to West Lafayette.

Parikshit Pawar

Parikshit PawarPhoto provided

On May 15, Pawar will cross the stage of Elliott Hall of Music to receive his bachelor’s degree in the health sciences pre-professional major with a concentration in pre-medicine, putting him one step closer to his goal of becoming an MD. He will also take center stage to deliver an address to his peers and their family and friends as the Division V commencement ceremony’s student responder.

“I’m really honored,” Pawar said. “It’s a big deal that I’m representing my college to speak in front of upwards of 6,000-7,000 students, parents, faculty and staff. I’m really honored, really humbled, and I just want to make sure that everyone has a great send-off.”

Pawar was nominated by the School of Health Sciences for the student responder role because of his academic excellence, his extensive research experience, and his involvement in experiential learning opportunities and student organizations.

“Parik was nominated given the breadth of his experiences during his undergraduate career,” said Aaron Bowman, professor and head of the School of Health Sciences. “These include conducting basic health sciences research in Dorothy Teegarden’s laboratory and serving as an HHS student ambassador, along with volunteer and extramural activities, such as with the ‘Opening Minds Through Art’ program at a local retirement community and serving as a medical scribe at a local cardiology department and emergency department.”

Because of his interest in pursuing a career in medicine, Pawar has prepared himself with extensive hands-on experience to bolster his knowledge of the medical field and patient-provider communication. Pawar worked as a medical scribe in a variety of medical disciplines, including cardiology, emergency medicine and otolaryngology, which allowed him to gain intensive shadowing opportunities with physicians, documenting and observing the entire medical diagnosis and exam process.

“I was really exposed to a lot of different avenues of medicine and really saw where I could fit in and how to interact with patients through that,” Pawar said.

Pawar also took his experience in healthcare a step further through his volunteer efforts. Pawar volunteered at West Lafayette’s Westminster Village senior living community, where he participated in the “Opening Minds Through Art” program to create art projects with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Pawar noted that being a volunteer in the program connected passion for helping people with his appreciation for art.

“I decided it would be a great experience to interact with patients and really just build up my communication skills,” Pawar explained.

During his time at Purdue, Pawar has also been heavily involved in research, studying how lipid metabolism regulates cancer cell metabolism in Nutrition Science Professor Dorothy Teegarden’s lab. While Pawar’s research experience has helped him better understand many of the concepts he has learned in his classes, it has also helped him communicate complex ideas in a simple way through presenting his research at Office of Undergraduate Research symposiums.

“If I’m a doctor, and I want to communicate ideas to a patient, they obviously are not trained or don’t know much of the information that’s being presented to them, so it’s important to be able to communicate in an efficient manner that’s easy to follow,” Pawar said.

With Teegarden as an advisor, Pawar also was an early leader of the HHS Research Education and Community Health Scholars student organization (REACH). The organization gathers student researchers who are tied to a research program to focus on a health issue that is influencing the world. Students provide background information about the issue and offer guidance for what the community can do to help. During Pawar’s time with the organization, the group focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Parik’s involvement in the HHS REACH Scholars program included working with the team in a community outreach project,” Teegarden said. “He was a leader in this successful effort and demonstrated his initiative and passion for community engagement, particularly in the field of improving health.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic created a disruption in Pawar’s college experience, he recalls being able to reunite with his friends on campus in fall 2020 as one of the most memorable parts of his college career — an experience that made him value his time on campus even more.

As Pawar begins his gap year to gain more clinical experience before attending medical school, he noted there are many things he’ll miss about being a student at Purdue, but the people he’s met on campus will be what he misses most.

“You can’t find people like this anywhere else,” Pawar said. “They’re so energetic and so passionate about Purdue that you really can’t miss out on this experience. I never knew what Purdue was coming in. I’d never visited Purdue, but I just fell in love with the campus, the people and the traditions. It was everything I could expect and want.”