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ATSU-SOMA’s mission inspires first-year student to continue her public health journey as an osteopathic physician

Growing up, Raashmi Krishnasamy, OMS I, always knew she was a problem solver. 

“My whole life, I think for the most part, I knew I was really interested in science, and I really was a problem solver and always really liked using that part of my brain,” Krishnasamy explained.

While pursuing a bachelor’s of neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University, a chance elective course introduced her to public health, which today has brought her to A.T. Still University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA), where she hopes to become an osteopathic physician who can utilize her upbringing and passion for community health to address today’s healthcare problems.

Krishnasamy, who was born in India and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was a toddler, explained that community and service were a huge part of her upbringing. In addition, her parents heavily stressed staying connected to their culture, which she said influenced her decision to initially pursue neuroscience.

“My parents both have chronic conditions,” she said. “It’s very common amongst South Asian folks to have chronic heart issues, or diabetes, especially. They’ve always tried to combat that.”

Krishnasamy explained they believed focusing on prevention, such as using food as medicine, was always better than focusing on the cure.

“Yoga and meditation were a big part of my upbringing. When we would go to India on family trips as kids, we would really connect back with the culture and our roots. It was really nice to be able to see that. I knew I always wanted to have that as a part of my toolbox and bring that into my practice, but the yoga piece got me interested in neuroscience because I really wondered what impact that had on the whole body, specifically the brain,” she said.

Before her junior year of studying neuroscience, Krishnasamy signed up for a Health Development and Human Rights class, which was the elective she said changed her life. 

“Freshman year of college I was like, ‘I’m going to be a neurosurgeon. That’s what I’m going to do,’” she explained. “Then I was getting close to graduation, and I did not feel like I was ready to go to med school yet. It felt like it was coming on so fast. I’m really happy in my neuro major, and I know I want to be a surgeon, I just don’t know if I want to go right now. And I fell into public health on accident.”

After her first exposure to the global health space, Krishnasamy said she continued to take related classes before eventually connecting with the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Heart Association, where she had her first opportunity to go out into the community and see public health in action.

She joined the association as a community health intern, working on an initiative to reduce hypertension in the Pittsburgh region, particularly focusing on lower-income communities.

“That summer kick-started everything for me,” Krishnasamy said. “I worked in the communities, I did some health education, and really was able to go and meet people and learn their stories, hear about what they were dealing with.”

After that summer, Krishnasamy started to dig even more into her own family health history. 

“I found that, just around my grandmother’s death, there were a lot of structural pieces I had not learned about when I was a kid. And a lot of it was access issues, there was certainly some food insecurity, there was definitely health education,” she explained.

“Looking into my own family history, and also seeing what I was seeing in the community and the mistrust these folks had for the healthcare system, was really big for me. To grapple with that, it was a moment where I had to take pause and think about what kind of position I wanted to be in, and what are the factors I want to address?”

She then chose to attend George Washington University for her master’s in public health and began to work with the Beyond Flexner Alliance, now known as the Social Mission Alliance (SMA), which is a national movement that aims to transform health professions education through addressing health disparities and advocating for health equity.

SMA has worked closely with ATSU in the past, with ATSU recently co-hosting the 2022 Beyond Flexner Conference.

“That’s when I was first introduced to the University,” she said. “I loved that whole concept of just being able to be in the community,” she said.

In addition, ATSU’s commitment to whole person healthcare and community health perfectly fit with Krishnasamy’s goal to incorporate public health in her service to underserved populations. 

She is also a part of ATSU’s Hometown Scholars program, another aspect of ATSU-SOMA which heavily impacted her decision to attend. 

“I love the concept of being at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and being able to address not just what the patient in front of you is bringing to you, but also some of the larger issues that are at stake that brought the patient into your office in the first place,” she said. 

Nearing the close of her first semester, Krishnasamy has thoroughly enjoyed her first few months in medical school, and is looking forward to going back to Washington after graduation to serve her community while working towards health equity.

“I’m learning so much from not only just from my administration and my faculty, but from my peers. I feel really grateful and honored to be part of a cohort like that,” she said.

“I feel like I definitely made the right choice for me, and I’m really happy to be here. And it’s a privilege, it’s a great privilege to be able to learn how to heal folks.”

Learn more about Krishnasamy’s passion for public health and community-centered care on her recent “From X to Z” podcast episode feature here

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