WASHINGTON, PA (March 25, 2021)—Akansha Das ’24 had a non-traditional start to her college career.
Like many students in the nation entering college in the fall of 2020, Akansha began her Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) experience as a remote learner, commencing her studies in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. She soon found herself longing for the more traditional opportunities to socialize and gain experience in her field that come with the W&J experience.
Enter Biology Professor Candy DeBerry, Ph.D.
Dr. DeBerry gave Akansha resources to search for and secure science-based internships. Akansha, who is on the pre-health track and intends to major in biochemistry and sociology, had heard about the Women’s+ Health Collective (WHC), a new organization dedicated to inclusive healthcare for women, opening in her community. With the help of Dr. DeBerry, Akansha drafted her initial outreach and soon began her dream role working with WHC as a pre-med student volunteer.
“It was such a cool initiative; I knew I wanted to be involved in some way,” Akansha said of WHC. “I’ve always been passionate about investigating ways to solve health disparities. Over the summer, I read more about women’s health and attended a conference focused on women’s health, and I loved learning about how complex the different functions of a woman’s body are. Learning about stuff like holistic health care and comprehensive health care drove me to reach out.”
Akansha has had the opportunity to lend her assistance to WHC in multiple areas as a medical scribe, social media assistant, and content writer, and even has shaped some of the outreach initiatives of WHC—including the formation of a blog, which she initially suggested.
On the blog, Akansha has authored posts about feminism and women’s health and an intersectional analysis on the disparities women face while seeking access to basic health resources.
“I think incorporating feminism into all these things is so important because that’s how it should have been in the first place. We have to retrace our steps and go about fixing the problems that exist in our current system,” she said. “Especially in health care, it’s so enraging to me when we see those maternal health statistics and see how women die because they don’t get equitable health care, and that’s so sad because in many cases it’s very preventable.”
Akansha has continued her role with WHC this spring and is working with W&J faculty and staff to add more internships to her resume this summer. She’s applying for Magellan Franklin Internship funds to support a research experience studying cancer biology, specifically focusing on HPV, at a Michigan State University research lab, which she plans to do alongside another internship with the Helen DeVos Children’s hospital studying cancer in children and the health disparities experience by children in different populations.
“The support from the W&J faculty has been really amazing. It’s given me the confidence to reach out for these opportunities and get them and do them,” Akansha said. “The email I drafted when reaching out to WHC, I got from resources shared by Dr. DeBerry. I haven’t even had a class with her yet and she’s been so helpful and invested in me. I don’t think that’s something I would get out of just any college.”
Akansha has received conditional acceptance to and plans to attend the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University through W&J’s partner program with the institute and become a physician while continuing to do outreach work and research on health disparities affecting marginalized people.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.