Skip to Content

Coronavirus: Get complete details about the university's response to COVID-19.

Arnold School of Public Health

December graduate uses knowledge from online Master of Public Health program to provide better healthcare, reduce inequities

January 29, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Keerthana Kumar became interested in public health while she was studying to become a physician. As a student at Saint James School of Medicine in the Netherlands, the Florida native completed clinical rotations at underserved hospitals in Chicago and assisted with neuropsychiatric studies at the University of Chicago.

“I became acutely aware of the gross degree of health inequities, with respect to both healthcare treatment and health outcomes,” says Kumar, who was introduced to a hidden epidemic in the south side Chicago community by an attending physician during her psychiatry rotation. “Nearly 40 percent of our patient population suffered from previously undiagnosed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, for which there is no cure but is 100 percent preventable. My desire to be a better physician and potentially help prevent conditions like FASD is why I chose to study public health.”

After completing her medical degree in 2016, Kumar began working as an instructor at the Institute of Medical Boards and conducted research in the neurology department at the University of Missouri. She decided to apply to the Arnold School’s Online Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) – Professional Program because it enabled her to continue working while earning her degree.

My desire to be a better physician and potentially help prevent conditions like FASD is why I chose to study public health.

-Keerthana Kumar, Online MPH in HPEB graduate

While enrolled in the program, Kumar applied her growing public health knowledge when co-/authoring several book chapters on improving patient safety in clinical contexts and a paper on improving healthcare training for treating older adults. She also continued publishing neurology research papers in medical journals. 

Kumar used her program’s practicum requirement as an opportunity to combine her healthcare interests with her personal passion for sports and physical activity – the latter of which had led her to discover yoga and mindfulness as a means for managing anxiety during medical school. Using these experiences in conjunction with her public health knowledge, Kumar developed an intervention aimed at improving mindfulness in a high-stress neighborhood. 

“Everyone at the Arnold School of Public Health was an incredible mentor,” says Kumar, noting that Ken Watkins and Xiaoming Li served influential roles as instructors and advisors. “I learned so much from everyone in an incredibly positive environment.  I truly couldn’t imagine having a better experience learning public health anywhere else!”

In 2019, as Kumar was wrapping up her MPH program, she moved to Baltimore to complete a transitional year of residency at the University of Maryland. She plans to implement her public health knowledge in her everyday clinical practice, which is likely to include neurology and geriatric medicine.

I learned so much from everyone in an incredibly positive environment. I truly couldn’t imagine having a better experience learning public health anywhere else!

-Keerthana Kumar, Online MPH in HPEB graduate

“I have always critically evaluated situations for improvement, and of course patients, and I now have the knowledge to know how to more effectively help patients and situations,” Kumar says. “After completing a preliminary year of residency, I am considering completing a residency in preventive medicine to focus my career on making positive and necessary changes in healthcare.”

Whether you’re a physician like Kumar or interested in another role within the public health field, the December graduate highly recommends studying the subject. “Public health has probably saved your life, and understanding ways to contribute to the advancement is so vitally important for improving health inequities, which are reflections of inequities in society,” Kumar says. “And if you work in healthcare, knowing facets of providing care that are impactful and work are so important to providing meaningful care.”


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.

©