How ‘a variety of passions’ led VCU’s Sneha Krish to pursue the science and policy sides of health care

The aspiring physician believes doctors can more effectively treat communities when there is an “understanding of their lives, from both a policy and medical perspective.”

A long-term goal of becoming a doctor and a strong interest in health care policy led Sneha Krish... [View Image] A long-term goal of becoming a doctor and a strong interest in health care policy led Sneha Krish to pursue degrees in political science and biology at VCU. (Kaitlyn Rose Photography)

Sneha Krish wasn’t always encouraged to pursue all of her passions and interests. As a high school student in Los Angeles, Krish was a member of the Model United Nations and several service-oriented organizations, such as the Red Cross. Outside of school, she was a member of a dance company and a photography club. She participated in community service and completed a pre-med curriculum. A principal cautioned her to narrow her focus.

“My high school principal told me that if I stuck to all these things and tried to fit everything together into my career, I would become a jack of all trades and master of none,” Krish said.

But Krish believed that, far from being a distraction, her extracurricular activities complemented her academic life. When she enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University, she finally felt understood.

“I’m really passionate about my studies, but I’m also passionate about dance, literature, staying active and having a healthy social life,” Krish said. “I think one thing that people might not know about college is that there is still time for you to pursue other interests. There’s so much you can do in addition to being a student.”

Krish has competed in and choreographed a variety of dance disciplines since she was 5 years old. Dance, she said, has influenced her work ethic, making her more resilient and less likely to give up on something new.

“I was captain of the dance team for two years at VCU,” she said. “Through dance, I was able to get out of my path and be active in something I really love. There are so many sides to a person, and each should be nourished and encouraged. It is so important to be engaged in a variety of passions because it enhances the diversity of the community and broadens American culture.”

Literature is another of her passions. Current favorites are authors such as Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. Krish especially loves the Harry Potter series and affectionately refers to VCU as her Hogwarts, after the wizarding school in the books.

“I’m an only child, so growing up I spent a lot of time at the library,” she said. “I was bullied in elementary school, so I didn’t make any friends until high school. Reading took me to a place where I felt valued, and it built my self-confidence and self-esteem.”

The biology degree gave me core knowledge in physiology and biology, the scientific side of medicine. I added a political science major because I want policy and public administration to shape my practice as a physician.

High achiever

With a long-term goal to be a doctor and a strong interest in health care policy, specifically international health care and global health inequities, Krish decided to pursue a bachelor’s in political science and another in biology through VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences.

“The biology degree gave me core knowledge in physiology and biology, the scientific side of medicine. I added a political science major because I want policy and public administration to shape my practice as a physician,” she said. “You can look at health care from a patient-treatment-illness perspective, but a doctor should also assess a patient’s socioeconomic background and how it contributes to symptoms and affects treatment. I want to approach medicine from both sides."

Krish pursued two degrees and maintained her passion for dance thanks in part to the Jay and Sondra Weinberg Undergraduate Honors Scholarship she received in 2018. She also received a four-year University Scholarship as a freshman in the Honors College.

“I was concerned about affording college,” she said. “My family is big, and my dad is the only person who works. We used to have seven people living with us, including my grandparents on both sides, my aunt and my mom and dad. The scholarship enabled me to stay in class and keep my work hours manageable, and it lifted the weight off my dad.

“Without the Weinberg Scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to graduate with two degrees in three years and be so engaged in dance,” she said. “It’s very nice to dream a dream, but to be able to achieve it, you need help. And the scholarship made that dream possible.”

You can look at health care from a patient-treatment-illness perspective, but a doctor should also assess a patient’s socioeconomic background and how it contributes to symptoms and affects treatment. I want to approach medicine from both sides.

Hitting the books

Krish graduated in May 2019 and is eligible for guaranteed admission to the VCU School of Medicine. She is currently pursuing her master’s in global health at the University of California, San Francisco. She has worked with UCSF faculty to develop a phone-based health education tool to promote postnatal care in Chandigarh, India.

“We are using technology to deliver information to difficult-to-reach populations,” Krish said.

Krish advocates for physician education in health care policy alongside medical training. She is not waiting for change to happen. She is doing what she has always done: forging her own path and embracing her constellation of interests.

“I want to be a physician who is focused on policy,” she said. “I can more effectively treat communities when I have a deeper understanding of their lives, from both a policy and medical perspective. This way, I will have a more sustainable impact.”

This article originally published in Impact magazine under the headline “Master of all.”

Subscribe to VCU News

Subscribe to the VCU News newsletter at newsletter.vcu.edu and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Monday and Thursday.