For as long as she can remember, Rashmi Bharadwaj, a third-year medical student, has been interested in medical advocacy work. To illustrate this, the Louisville, Ky., native shared an anecdote about an essay she wrote in the fifth grade arguing for increased health care access during the Haitian earthquake crisis. She said that was just the beginning of her journey to medicine. 

According to Bharadwaj, she “wants to be involved with clinical care and research that directly addresses health disparities.” She studied public policy during her undergraduate tenure and hopes to work at the intersection of policy and medicine. She believes working directly with patients as a physician will help her develop a deeper understanding of the community’s needs and make more meaningful changes as a result. Bharadwaj has seized many opportunities to connect with mentors and gain early exposure to experiences that further these goals.  

During her first week at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Bharadwaj recalls meeting Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS) members at the student organization fair. At their urging, she attended WIMS Day, an annual October event featuring renowned speakers, career development workshops, and research and award presentations. She remembers being inspired by a presentation by Meera Gupta, MD, assistant professor of surgery. When looking for a research mentor months later, Bharadwaj said “It all came full circle” when someone suggested she connect with Dr. Gupta. 

Bharadwaj has since participated extensively in transplantation research under the mentorship of Dr. Gupta, who also serves as surgical director of the kidney and pancreas transplant program at UK HealthCare. Earlier this year, Bharadwaj took home the first-place award for a research e-poster presentation at the American College of Surgeons 2023 Annual Clinical Congress in Boston. She also presented work at both the American Society of Transplant Surgeons Winter Symposium and the American Transplant Congress this past year.

When asked what she likes most about transplant surgery, she said, “I like how much advocacy is involved, from prepping a patient for transplant to navigating the process of locating an organ to working with a multidisciplinary team of providers. It takes everyone, like a cardiologist, a nephrologist, a surgeon, and more, all working together for that patient.”

To further practice her clinical care skills, Bharadwaj is a regular volunteer at the Salvation Army Clinic (SAC), a student-run clinic that provides free medical services to residents of the Salvation Army women and children’s shelter and unhoused persons in the Lexington area. For the last two years, she has also served as the insurance officer for the clinic, helping individuals apply for Medicaid or other qualified health plans.   

Bharadwaj currently serves as co-chair of the WIMS Student and Trainee subcommittee. This subcommittee coordinates several events for medical and graduate students throughout the year and oversees the WIMS mentorship program, which matched more than 150 mentor/mentee pairs this academic year. Bharadwaj and her subcommittee are responsible for matching participants based on interests and career goals. Medical students, graduate students, faculty of all ranks, and UK College of Medicine alumni are invited to participate. 

Bharadwaj is grateful to be involved with WIMS and credits the organization for helping facilitate connections with her own mentors. As a participant in the mentorship program, Bharadwaj said she enjoys the genuine connection she’s made with her mentor, Crystal Totten, MD, in the department of surgery, and appreciates Dr. Totten’s ability to be honest about the demands of a career in surgery while being encouraging and supportive of her journey.

Bharadwaj said she’s still early in her career and hasn’t made a specialty decision yet, but likes the idea of being an academic surgeon who splits her time between research efforts to inform public policy and direct patient care.