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Finding Her Way

When Akshatha Kiran was selected as a Caldwell Fellow during her freshman year at NC State University, she felt gratitude for a program that believed in her potential.

“It wasn’t a program that asked what I had done before It didn’t measure my abilities based on my past but focused on my potential for the future,” she said. “The Caldwell Fellows valued the kind of person I was, how I would grow and what I could bring to the table.”

Kiran, a senior pursuing her B.S. in biochemistry, has indeed demonstrated her potential. She chose NC State with plans to focus on research and service, and has seized every opportunity to do both.

Just last summer, she spent two months in Saragur, India, performing research in a rural hospital that serves displaced tribal villagers. In addition to tuition assistance, each Caldwell Fellow receives a stipend for growth experiences outside the university.

“The hospital was in the middle of nowhere – three hours from any major city,” Kiran said.

She shared a guest room, much like a dorm room, with two other interns from Iowa, and spent her time working on two research projects. The first focused on preterm labor.

“Working on this project helped me understand the battles that women from underserved populations have to fight as well as the challenges faced by the hospitals who serve them,” she said.

Kiran then worked to create a preliminary draft of a postpartum depression survey for that region of India.

The experience built upon an earlier Caldwell Fellows experience at the Urban Ministries of Wake County’s Open Door Clinic, which provides low cost healthcare to uninsured Wake County residents. Kiran first served as an intern, and during that time, created an eligibility form for the clinic. Later, she returned and led a team of five other Caldwell Fellows, all of whom served as eligibility interviewers at the clinic.

For Kiran, who plans to graduate in May and attend medical school, these invaluable experiences have grown and shaped her.

“I knew college would be a very important time and instrumental in creating the person I wanted to be,” she said. “When I read about the Fellows – what they were focused on, and what they valued – I knew that was the community that I wanted to be surrounded by.”

Kiran, who grew up in Cary, has always known she wanted to be a doctor, but she admits that, had she been asked why five years ago, she would have been unable to verbalize an answer.

“It was what I was drawn to, but I couldn’t find the words,” she said. “Caldwell helped me figure out the why.”

Through her experiences and through conversations with other Caldwell Fellows, Kiran was encouraged to reflect on her priorities. She realized she strives to give back to the world through service, and her role as a doctor will be how she does just that. With an interest in women’s health, she’s leaning toward a focus on obstetrics and gynecology.

“NC State is a university that promotes critical and creative thinking; its faculty and atmosphere engage its students in collaborative work that reaches across disciplines to serve, learn and lead,” Kiran said. “The scholarships that NC State offers to its students are teeming with opportunities that change the lives of the students who receive them and we, the students, in turn hope to use these opportunities to enact positive change to the causes and communities that drive us.”