Working with homeless women teaches student valuable lessons

2 min read

As an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal, Anvita Kulkarni had a passion for social justice and health equity. Two years ago, she stumbled across an online course, “Health and Society,” taught by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Professor Ichiro Kawachi on HarvardX. The course framed these issues through a public health lens, which was a new perspective for her. Inspired, she applied to the School and was accepted into the master’s program in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Now, Kulkarni is putting into practice what she’s learning about how social variables such as race and income affect health.

Last summer, she worked with the School’s Prevention Research Center evaluation team on the REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) Obesity and Hypertension Demonstration Project—a series of interventions funded by the Centers for Disease Control and implemented by the Boston Public Health Commission. Kulkarni worked on data collection and had the opportunity to visit and learn from organizations and hospitals throughout the city.

Since last spring she has been immersed in a new challenge—organizing health promotion activities at the YWCA Cambridge Tanner Residence, which houses about 100 adult women who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Kulkarni was one of 16 graduate students from health professional schools across Boston chosen this year as a Boston Schweitzer Fellow, and is working with Tanner for a twelve-month direct service project as part of the fellowship.