By Camille Mojica-Rey
Kavita Mishra vividly remembers the Algerian motorcycle accident victim she met while volunteering at a hospital in Madrid.
"A large portion of his brain and skull was gone, but he could still speak four languages," Mishra, 23, recalls. The incident became a turning point in her life.
A participant in a study-abroad program while attending Brown University, Mishra took the hospital stint as a way to assimilate faster. "I just thought it would be a great way to learn the language and the culture," she says. But when Mishra was intrigued by both the basic neurobiology and the medical science presented by the Algerian man's case, she decided to pursue her interest in medicine, surprising even herself.
"I was always somewhat of a rebel," she says. "There are a lot of doctors in my family."
In fact, medicine is a family business in the Mishra household. Mishra's parents moved to Riverside, CA, from India before her birth. Her father, Vinod, is a practicing physician in Riverside and an instructor at the UC Riverside-UCLA BS/MD program. Her mother, Rita, runs the business side of her father's medical practice.
Instead of choosing a premedicine major in college, the self-proclaimed rebel majored in neuroscience with the idea of going on to graduate school or pursuing science journalism. It wasn't until after her experience in Madrid that Mishra embraced medicine as her career choice.
That's because the encounters with the patients in the Madrid hospital piqued more than just her scientific curiosity. Mishra also became interested in the human side of providing health care. "We were just supposed to keep the spirits alive of the people who were there with no family," she recalls of the volunteer work. "I realized I liked working with people in that capacity."
Third-year medical student Kavita Mishra explored Peru. (See larger)
Mishra applied to medical schools and, while waiting for interviews to begin, traveled to Lima, Peru, where she volunteered at Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. "There, I saw another intersection between science and the care of people," Mishra says. Among other services, the nuns offered physical therapy to children with severe medical and physical disabilities. "It was an invigorating experience."
Exploring Other Interests
Mishra was accepted to UCSF, where other interests began to motivate her, as well. She became editor of the student newspaper Synapse
in her second year, building on her experience as a senior editor of the Brown Daily Herald
"Kavita was really a joy to work with at Synapse
," says Tim Neagle, managing editor of Synapse
. "She had lots of good ideas for the paper, and her enthusiasm was infectious."
That enthusiasm and energy also motivated Mishra to run for election to the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). During her term as an ASUC representative in the 2005-2006 academic year, Mishra worked to organize a voter registration drive on campus and to get the state to buy back any fee hikes that might affect UCSF students.
Mishra also became involved with the South Asian Health Professional Students Association. Under its auspices, she helped to organize the group's annual Indian cultural show and, last year, was one of the driving forces behind a luncheon that raised $5,000 for tsunami relief.
According to Mishra, those who know her say it will be women's health issues that bring her focus back to medicine and her future as a practicing physician. She also has been engaged in political action and fundraising for Students for Choice.
"I have always had a dream of running a women's clinic, working with adolescents and doing rape crisis work," Mishra says. "I haven't given up on that dream. I just want to be sure that whatever I do combines all my interests and passions."