Inspiring grads: Wasan Kumar
Wasan Kumar has led an illustrious career at UIC, making the most of his time on campus before moving on to medical school at Stanford University on a full-tuition scholarship.
“I know that I still want to do something in the field of health care but also branch out into my interests in public service and policy work,” he said.
Kumar, a neuroscience student in the UIC Honors College, believes health care to be an interpersonal experience and is hoping to assist others in any way he can.
“What stands out to me about medicine is that you get to really work with individual people and spend a lot of time talking to another person about what their problems are and what they are experiencing,” Kumar said. “You can go beyond someone who diagnoses and prescribes medication and go out and really be an activist for patients and people in the community.”
Kumar has served this year as the Undergraduate Student Government president and was named the 2020 Lincoln Academy Student Laureate. He also was honored as Newman Civic Fellow in 2020 for his commitment to finding solutions during his research and outreach experiences.
“I think this past year as student government president has defined my UIC career. I was honored to have the opportunity to create change on our campus,” Kumar said. “Things like grading policy change, reimagining public safety and pushing for diversity and ethnic studies instruction, among other things.”
Kumar also was a finalist for the prestigious and highly selective Rhodes Scholarship.
“The Rhode Scholar process was pretty exciting overall; it was a really intense process of a lot of interviews and writing essays. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get a chance to look at the things I care about and I wanted to do in the future and take time to reflect on those things,” Kumar said.
He currently works in cardiovascular disease research, focusing on how environmental population may lead to an increase in cardiovascular diseases that affect communities specifically on the West and South sides of Chicago.
“I’ve really moved to a more civic engagement and policy focus, and that really arose out of work on health equity in Chicago, specifically the West Side, to really see how people are facing specific social conditions that are causing different life expectancies and causing specific health problems that come out of social issues like homelessness or lack of access to transportation,” Kumar said.
The time spent at UIC has been extremely valuable and rewarding for Kumar.
“Being at UIC gave me an opportunity to really be emerged both in a sort of activist culture that goes on in our school and in the surrounding neighborhoods — to really examine these social problems and what some of the causes might be like. I was able to tie that into my specific interest in health care and to see this being a part of my future career.”
Kumar also sought out opportunities outside of the classroom. He has conducted health policy work as an intern in the office of state Rep. Theresa Mah. He also was a health educator and leadership council member for UIC’s chapter of the Peer Health Exchange, a nonprofit organization that teaches health education to first-year high school students in Chicago Public Schools.
“I would recommend other students to take advantage of all of the mentorship and advising opportunities we have here at UIC. I had really great support from my college’s advisors, pre-health advisors, and fellowships advisors,” Kumar said. “It’s important for us to plan ahead since we’re only going to be students for a short amount of time. Take advantage of the fact that you can study, research and work in a huge variety of fields, but there is not as much flexibility when you join a career.”
Kumar said he would miss the UIC community.
“I’ll definitely miss the people at UIC. I think that we have really amazing students, faculty, staff,” he said. “Everyone that I have interacted with at UIC has been really supportive of anything that we do, whether it’s a student organization or if we are doing something with research. I’ve always gotten a ton of support at UIC, and I really appreciate that.”