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Humans of the U: Sanila Math

"During my time as a college student, I’ve been grateful for the supportive environment that allowed me to really dive into my studies and find topics and fields of study that I’m passionate about."

“Growing up in a South Asian household, my parents always placed a big emphasis on education. It was always assumed that I would attend medical school or some equivalent. While I have discovered that my passions do lie in pursuing medicine, my journey in deciding to do so was far different from what I imagined and was shaped by many experiences I had at the U.

During my time as a college student, I’ve been grateful for the supportive environment that allowed me to really dive into my studies and find topics and fields of study that I’m passionate about. In taking science courses, I discovered I really did enjoy medicine, and decided to pursue a pre-med track. But in addition, found that I also wanted to focus on and study human experiences. Learning about how medicine could center and emphasize individuality and discovering how humans navigate institutional systems was a big reason for my decision to pursue a double major in Ethnic Studies and Anthropology.

The U has allowed me to cultivate my interests through a variety of experiences. I traveled to northern India in the summer of 2019 with Dr. Singh to conduct public health research, which was eye-opening in many ways. It helped me to unpack the intersectionality in my identity and how it can affect my relationships with my communities. My undergraduate thesis on the paradox of South Asian over- and underrepresentation in the medical field reflects this intersection of medicine and human-focused sociological inquiry.

Through other experiences, such as working with Ben McAdam’s campaign, the Prison Education Project and leadership positions within ASUU, I have learned to appreciate life histories outside of the realm of medicine. This has paved the way for dedication to advocacy because I believe in supporting the people who are constantly harmed by institutional systems. Additionally, my experiences helped me shift my definition of success away from awards and numbers and more into the realm of interpersonal relationships. I think a big part of what it means to be a leader or an advocate is to understand how you can better show up for the people around you. Often, equity and liberation expand far beyond your chosen field and intersects with vastly different areas of life. I’ve been extremely grateful for the incredible peers, advocates, and mentors I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from during my time as a student.

After graduation, I plan to travel to New York for the summer, working and exploring the city. In the fall, I’ll return to Utah to attend medical school at the Spence Eccles School of Medicine. Eventually, I hope to work in maternal and fetal medicine, with a focus on helping fix disparities we see in healthcare delivery and utilization.

I would not have been able to do all that I have without the love and constant support of my family, friends, coworkers and mentors. I’m grateful for the support system they provide and want to thank them for all they do for me. As I continue in my career, I hope to pay it forward and be able to provide those resources and support for others to help them achieve their goals.

If I could give advice to first-year students, I would say, first, just know that you deserve to be here. The university can sometimes seem inaccessible or unapproachably large, and imposter syndrome is real. But you deserve to be here just as much as anyone, and have the resources to succeed! Take time to find good mentors and people who care about you. One person who truly cares about you and your success will take you further than a large group who are indifferent.

And lastly, there are a lot of different ways to accomplish goals. Don’t feel as if there is only one route to success. Find what you are passionate about, and do what works for you. Approaching projects and problems with a genuine interest and desire to learn will get you much further than worrying about whether or not you’re following a certain “correct” career path. Follow your interests, and find what brings you peace and happiness.”

—Sanila Math, Class of 2022, B.S. in Anthropology, College of Social & Behavioral Science, and minor in Ethnic Studies, School for Cultural and Social Transformation, presidential intern