Boston, November 24, 2003 -- Pooja Kumar, an Indian-American medical student at Harvard, had a singular birthday gift for her mother this year -- the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship for 2004, which was announced on Saturday.
A resident of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Kumar
, 22, joined three undergraduates from Harvard
in winning the Rhodes honor this year.A total of thirty-two Americans were selected and will join fellow winners from around the world next October in England for two years of study at Oxford. A 2001 graduate of Duke, Kumar is planning to take two years off from Medical School to study at Oxford for an M.Phil in International Relations. After graduating from Duke in May 2001 with a degree in Health Policy, she went on a Hart Fellowship with the International Rescue Committee in Azerbaijan.
is working on a large-scale community health program that targets internally displaced peoples and refugees, focusing on primary health care training and health education.
In the past, Pooja
has worked for Save the Children in East Timor (summer 2000), UNICEF
in India (summer 2001), Mother Teresa´s Missionaries of Charity in India (summer 1996), and under independent grants in China and Taiwan (summer 1998).She has also photographed with and taught photography to seriously ill children at Duke University Medical Center and Boston Children's Hospital (1998-2000).
Most of Pooja´s work focuses on the social aspects of health and medicine.
Pooja´s international interests are also evident in her
academic work, which focuses on the relationship between war and health.At Duke, she
wrote an honors thesis on this topic and co-taught a course on international health issues.
Daughter of Suresh and Sheila Kumar of Doylestown in Pennsylvania, Pooja
was born in India, and has lived in Singapore, Indonesia, and Canada where her father, who is an executive of Johnson and Johnson, worked.
In the summer of her
senior year at Duke, Pooja Kumar
was in East Timor where she
conducted assessments of village life to design a national health outreach plan for maternal and child health.Kumar admits that her work with the Save the Children Foundation in the East Timor capital of Dili was the most intense learning experience she ever had.
"It was good to put my classroom work into practice," she
had said."It was definitely the most intense learning experience I´ve ever had." Kumar
made some wonderful friendships in East Timor."I was in tears the entire flight home."Two days after leaving East Timor, Kumar
was back at Duke.
"As hard as it was to get used to the level of destruction in East Timor, it was harder to come back to Duke, where everything is beautiful and everyone is pretty well-off," she
said."It´s such a contrast.I was so immersed in everything going on there [in East Timor], and now I am so entirely not."
During the school year, Pooja
had taken on a documentary photography project; she
helped pediatric patients at Duke Hospital
use a camera to express their views of illness and their lives.She
conducted a similar project in Dili, this time teaching street kids to use a camera to describe their experiences before, during and after the violence. Kumar
was a finalist in Glamour magazine´s Top 10 College Women.She
was on the National Dean's list and Duke University's
Dean's List.In 2001 she
was selected for the All-USA College
Academic Team honor program.USA Today
under the program, which honors outstanding full time undergraduates in four-year colleges and universities in US.