UNTHSC student honored by American Public Health Association

September 26, 2017

By Sally Crocker

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Perhaps the main reason that UNT Health Science Center student Shivani Goswami was selected as this year’s Barbara Starfield Medical Scholar by the American Public Health Association (APHA) is because of her desire to build a better health care system.

As a future health care leader selected for this prestigious national honor, she will be involved in planning and assisting with Medical Section activities for the November APHA Annual Conference in Atlanta.

Seven years ago, Shivani found the road she wanted to take. Interning as a clinical language assistant with autistic patients, she met 9-year-old Sarah, who suffered from complicated speech and motor impairments that intensified when she became nervous or excited.

Shivani said she connected with the “bright-eyed young girl with a contagious smile.” The experience with Sarah and other children like her moved Shivani to want to learn more about the health care delivery system in order to change it.

“I wanted to have an impact on what I saw as a very complex system that sometimes loses sight of the fact that health care delivery is really about caring for people,” she said. “As an intern, I was very limited in my capacity to help Sarah. It was a wonderful feeling to connect with her and make her laugh, but still needing knowledge and training, I couldn’t alleviate her complications or guide her health in the future.

“As I watched this child fight through challenges every day, I found myself drawn toward a Master’s in Health Administration, where I could develop as a leader and use my experience to manage and enhance the quality of healthcare programs in the future.”

On course now to complete her MHA in May from the UNTHSC School of Public Health, Shivani took her first leap into health leadership when she co-established a non-profit regional organization called Health Connect South five years ago. The organization, based in Georgia, builds collaborations among health leaders and innovators in the field.

“Caring for a patient really involves an interdisciplinary focus and a values-based approach,” she said. “With a team of health professionals working together to cover every aspect of a patient’s needs, so much more can be addressed than when one person alone tries to make a difference.”

The UNTHSC public health program has helped Shivani broaden this idea beyond inpatient care services to “communities of care” that partner the patient and family with clinicians and community services addressing nutrition and healthy food access, safe housing, transportation, literacy, employment, education, work training and job opportunities.

“A pediatrician once told me that absolute compassion with humility is the best service a physician can provide. I realized this is also true in public health,” Shivani said. “To tell the health community what you are working on is easy, but to tell them that you need help involves the humility that can lead to groundbreaking collaborations for advancing health care and healthier lives at a faster pace.”

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