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About the writer: Sunita Puri

Sunita Puri  

Hi, readers! My name is Sunita, and I just finished my first year of medical school at the Joint Medical Program at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley. Because this is an MD/MA program, I will be writing this summer about my fieldwork for my master's thesis.

Hmmm, what can I tell you about me? I think that, in many ways, being the brown-skinned daughter of immigrants awakened the anthropologist within me. From a young age, I was always aware of and curious about how "difference" in all its forms was defined, demarcated, treated. Worlds were very sharply defined when I was growing up; contrasts were very apparent. Shuffling between The Home and The World, I became aware of my racial and cultural difference; within The Home and The Community, I was acutely aware of gender and how it shaped my experiences. Altogether, my life compelled me to ponder the place of immigrants in American society, the many forms of dislocation that immigrants and minorities experience, and how to communicate with and learn from others worlds, some right next door.

My love of exploring the experiences of ethnicity, race, and immigration continued to grow at Yale, where I completed my B.A. in Anthropology and wrote my senior thesis on domestic violence among South Asian immigrants in the U.S. and U.K, as well as on health care providers' (questionable) responses to battered South Asian women. While at Yale, I also was heavily involved in counseling both students and immigrant women in the area, and during my senior year, served as a residential advisor for minority freshmen. Listening to people's stories and pushing myself to have a greater understanding of experiences that were not my own whetted my interest in narrative, writing, and anthropology.

My work in England left me aching to return there, to experience life in the U.K. as a South Asian woman, to explore the lives and stories of South Asians who had struggled for their dignity and rights while living there. I lucked out and earned a scholarship to attend Oxford, where I completed an M.A. in Modern History, with a focus on South Asia. My thesis explored colonial photography of the Bombay Plague in 1896-97, comparing the colonial state's photographic representations of Indians with the accounts of physicians on the ground actually treating Indians during this devastating outbreak. I continue to have a deep interest in photography's power to (mis)represent, a point to which I will surely return again and again over the summer. While at Oxford I also worked for several women's shelters, and DJ-ed a few bhangra/Bollywood parties.

All of these experiences have prepared me for my current journey through medical school. In the future, I would really love to be involved in issues of women's health in immigrant and refugee communities in the United States, and in communities within India. I want to be able to combine straight up medical care with the care provided by listening, counseling, and support, and so I want to enter a specialty that will allow me to do this. I would love to combine community-based preventive medical work with a teaching career so that I could encourage students to think about issues of "culture" and race in medicine, to learn the problematic history of "western medicine" and its impact on various communities, and to bring narrative of all kinds to medical education. I am really looking forward to seeing how my summer work develops, and how it pushes me to new levels, emotionally and intellectually. Love to my family and friends who make it all possible.

— Sunita