Keerthana Jayaseelan, SOM Class of 2023, Hopes to One Day Give Back to Her Hometown in India
Coming from a village where the access to medical care is limited, Ms. Jayaseelan plans to return as a physician to help those who are underserved.
Born in the rural Indian town of Theni, Keerthana Jayaseelan, School of Medicine (SOM) Class of 2023, and her family did not have much access to quality medical care. Even her mother did not have access to a physician during childbirth. After her family emigrated to the United States for an opportunity of better education, Ms. Jayaseelan has made it her mission to become a physician and eventually give back to her hometown.
Ms. Jayaseelan moved from India to the Bronx, New York, when she was just seven years old. She had never been to the United States and could not speak English, marking a very difficult transition for her and her family. However, it was a risk her parents were willing to take. Her father was able to secure work in the U.S. and they were able to leave their rural hometown which at times presented a difficult living situation—with some family members having to drive three hours for medication or medical specialists.
It was not easy when Ms. Jayaseelan was teased in school for her struggles with speaking and writing English and the cultural norms of the U.S. However, looking back, she thinks she benefitted from that experience. “I think that difficulty gave me more resilience. I learned to not give up. I think it was very important in shaping who I am,” she said.
As she grew more comfortable in school, Ms. Jayaseelan began to excel in her classes, eventually attending Barnard College to major in neuroscience and behavior. “I’ve always loved the brain and thought it was super cool to study it,” she said.
When it came time to apply to medical school, Ms. Jayaseelan wanted to continue her quality education but also wanted to be close to her parents, who still lived in the Bronx. New York Medical College (NYMC) provided her an opportunity to fulfill both of those goals. “I came to the campus and loved how quiet it was, coming from the Bronx. Everyone was friendly and it’s such a warm community,” she said. Now in her third year in the SOM, Ms. Jayaseelan has not quite narrowed down what her dream specialty is but has taken great interest in internal medicine.
Whichever specialization she decides on, she is determined to be a compassionate physician, a priority she made when she decided she wanted to become a doctor years ago. “What I’ve always really liked was to be able to talk to other people and hear their stories,” Ms. Jayaseelan said. “I want to be solidified in my humanistic approach.”
She hopes to one day take her humanist vision back to her hometown of Theni as a physician and work to ensure that quality medical care is easier to access for underserved residents of the area. “Even today, there aren’t many doctors in Theni and sometimes there’s nowhere for people to get help. I want to be one of few doctors to come out of my village,” she said.
Increasing access to medical care in Theni will be no easy task, but Ms. Jayaseelan credits her parents, which were her only family in the U.S. as she grew up, for instilling the values of hard work in her, and supporting her when she was adjusting to her new country or managing the stresses of medical school.
“They’re my backbone. They’re my best friends,” Ms. Jayaseelan said. “They came [to the U.S.] to give me an opportunity and I couldn’t have made it this far without them.”