Radhika Purandare ’21 said her undergraduate experience — including research and a series of public health internships — set her up well as she heads to Sweden on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study maternal health among immigrant populations.
“I’m excited to take what I learn in Sweden and bring it back here,” says Purandare, who graduated summa cum laude with degrees in public health and communication studies. Sweden’s maternal mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world and is less than a third of that in the United States.
In her time at TCNJ, Purandare studied maternal health in the office of New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Murphy, whose Nurture NJ initiative seeks to reduce racial disparities that contribute to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. She also interned at the state Department of Health, researching maternal and infant COVID-19 outcomes; in the office of Trenton Mayor (and TCNJ adjunct professor) Reed Gusciora, working on efforts to reduce gun violence and underage e-cigarette use in the city; and as a policy/communications intern at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she worked on COVID-19 forecasting.
TCNJ’s proximity to policy makers in the state capital is invaluable, Purandare says.
The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board will fund Purandare’s research at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, which she says will be a “natural progression” of the research she did as an undergraduate. She’ll also work parttime with a non-profit group that provides multilingual doulas and interpreters who speak 23 languages, serving as a cultural bridge to immigrant communities.
“As a daughter of immigrants, I have decades of experience navigating cultural barriers,” she noted in her Fulbright application. She looks forward to being a “respectful, curious, and engaged ambassador” during her year in Sweden.
Afterward, Purandare is looking at post-graduate JD-MPH programs that offer a joint degree in law and public health.
“I would love to be a health policy advocate; I’m really passionate about it. It’s important for everybody to have access to health care and for it to be equitable,” she says. “The maternal morbidity and mortality crisis in the U.S. is heartbreaking, and I am committed to helping end it.”
— Patricia Alex