Following last year’s devastating earthquake, a student commits to improving health care in his native country

When Ramu Kharel, M.P.H. ’16, was seven years old, his father won the lottery for an immigrant visa to become a permanent resident of the United States. That serendipity ultimately brought Kharel from a small village in Nepal to America, to medical school in Texas, and ultimately to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to learn the skills he is now using to improve health care delivery back in his native Nepal.

Currently enrolled at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Kharel took a break after his third year to study global health at Harvard Chan School. His awakening to issues of public health came during the year he spent in India as an undergraduate, when he worked in impoverished neighborhoods with a Muslim women’s rights organization. Among other health issues, Kharel witnessed a lack of basic hygiene and heavy smoking among the residents and realized there was more to being a doctor than just treating individuals; some of these problems needed to be addressed at the population level.

When it came time to choose his medical specialty, he decided on obstetrics and gynecology because he had enjoyed that rotation in medical school and because of his work with women in India. After Nepal suffered a devastating earthquake in 2015, however, he now plans to specialize in emergency medicine, with a focus on disaster preparedness and disaster management.

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