Priya Shankar, MD, MPH
With the support of an AAP CATCH grant, I undertook a project titled “Mental Health Among South Asian Girls” after noticing a high burden of mental health issues among women and girls of my community. During the course of the CATCH grant, I first conducted a needs assessment with youth in which I got a chance to learn about key community issues, including cultural and social shame surrounding the topics of mental health, sexuality, and gender identity. Many youth also described an inability to speak with their parents or families about these topics. This needs assessment served as the basis for working with schools in the Bay Area to design a curriculum pertaining to feminism, gender, and mental health. The curriculum also includes community resources for parents and youth.
During residency, I have learned the importance of finding ways of connecting with one’s passion despite having a hectic schedule. While it has been challenging at times, I have focused on continuing to learn and engage with issues of health equity, which have always served as guiding forces for my career in medicine. As a pediatric resident, I worked on delving deeper into areas of particular interest, including global health, the health of women and girls, and minority mental health through two community-based projects.
During residency, I also worked to build a non-profit organization called Girls Health Champions (www.girlshealthchampions.org) which trains adolescent females as peer to peer health educators in India. The organization focuses on training youth in key adolescent health topics including sexual & reproductive health and mental health, giving youth themselves a central role in community health leadership. To date, the organization has trained over 700 youth “Champions,” or peer educators, who have gone on to educate over 4,000 of their peers. One of the most incredible parts of this work has been watching young people transform into leaders and catalyze critical health conversations in their communities.
Following residency, I am thrilled to continue focusing on my passions. I will be moving to Tamil Nadu, India on a Fogarty NIH fellowship to continue building Girls Health Champions and working towards a more equitable future for adolescent girls and young women. I am extremely grateful to the AAP for the support and encouragement along the way.
Meet the project leader:
Dr. Priya Shankar is a PGY-3 at the University of California San Francisco in the Pediatric Leaders Advancing Health Equity (PLUS) program. She is a graduate of the Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Post-residency, she is a recipient of a 2020 – 2021 Fogarty NIH Fellowship in Global Health.