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One Busy Student

A progressive degree student at USC Dornsife, Pavitra Krishnamani’s community service has inspired her decision to attend medical school and consider child psychiatry.

By Allison Churchman
March 18, 2014

USC Dornsife’s Pavitra Krishnamani is an embodiment of the USC experience, having taken leadership roles in many different groups, university-wide and in the community. Photo by Erica Christianson.

USC Dornsife’s Pavitra Krishnamani is an embodiment of the USC experience, having taken leadership roles in many different groups, university-wide and in the community. Photo by Erica Christianson.

Pavitra Krishnamani was 16 when she entered USC through the Resident Honors Program, but the teenager was wise enough to quickly get involved.

“I think, in a way, I’ve helped build a curriculum for myself at USC, through extracurricular activities that have helped me learn about other people, as well my major.”

Although those activities cover a wide range — from tutoring community students to founding a dance team to editing health publications — it has all come together as the progressive degree student prepares to complete a bachelor’s in psychology from USC Dornsife and an M.S. in global medicine from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She plans to attend medical school in the Fall.

Growing up in homogenous suburban towns in Delaware and Pennsylvania, Krishnamani wanted to understand culture from a psychological point of view when she came to cosmopolitan Los Angeles.

“One of the things I was very focused on was culture,” Krishnamani said of her arrival. “I got involved with USC’s Hindu Student Organization and Student Interfaith Council to apply what I learned in psychology classes to understand people who bring different cultural perspectives to the table.”

She became a founding member of the Bharatanatyam Dance Team because it helped her “keep in touch with the heritage that had been passed along by my parents.”

Krishnamani also became involved in the community surrounding USC through a Joint Educational Project (JEP) tutoring program. She was able to apply her classroom experience in medicine to tutoring elementary students on health topics.

Wanting to also mentor teenagers, Krishnamani became one of the first student tutors for the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Cadet Program. This program teaches local young men and women about law enforcement and emergency services.

Using her background in psychology, Krishnamani realized the key to helping these students to succeed academically would stem from considering and relating to their personal circumstances.

“My mentoring became a lot more about forming connections than simply instructing,” she said. “As I learned more about the students’ personal lives, I got to know them in more than just an academic capacity,” she said.

Now, after three years of service, she’s the program’s adviser for academic affairs — a role that includes holding mini-conferences on college planning.

Krishnamani credits her work with the Cadet Program for the newfound perspectives she’ll put into use when she represents USC as a member of its team at the Hult Prize Competition in San Francisco. Each year, teams from the world’s universities compete to create a workable business solution to a global problem and win $1 million to implement the business. This year’s challenge is “solving non-communicable disease in the urban slum,” and Krishnamani believes the “flexibility in looking at different people’s outlooks that working with DPS has given me will be very helpful.”

She’s also a member of the winning team in USC’s Global Health Case Competition and will be heading to the international case competition at Emory University this spring.

Krishnamani’s interest in global medicine propelled her to find the time to do medical writing and editing as the associate editor for USCience Review, an online science blog, and as senior editor for Trojan Health Connection.

Her experiences both in and out of the classroom have inspired Krishnamani to attend medical school and consider becoming a child psychiatrist.

“Although many of the kids believe I have inspired them,” she said, “I don’t think they realize exactly how greatly they have inspired me.”