After completing a bachelor's degree in dental surgery and a master's degree in health administration from Bangalore, India, Khyathi Gadag chose to apply to the University of Iowa after conducting comprehensive research on the university’s rankings, principles, and community. Learn more about Khyathi below.
What is your research area?
As a PhD student in health services and policy in the College of Public Health, I predominantly focus my research on understanding the issues and investigating the causes behind mental health inequities. In particular, I conduct policy research to evaluate facilitators and barriers to mental health services in marginalized populations (predominantly in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and racial minorities). Additionally, I am interested in conducting social and economic policy analysis to appreciate the areas that need policy changes to reduce mental health disparities in disadvantaged populations. Overall, I aim to work toward reducing mental health disparities and improving mental health equity by targeting (improving) the social determinants of health with the help of technology and its advancements. I plan to graduate in the year 2025.
What prompted you to pursue your graduate studies at the UI?
As I was looking into opportunities for pursuing my PhD in the United States, I came across the UI College of Public Health through national ranking websites and other search sites. I learned that the university is classified among R1: Doctoral Universities, which is awarded to universities with very high research activity and is best known for its programs in health care. Also, before applying, I was going through the website and was drawn toward the university's core principles, including diversity, equity, and inclusion. These are some principles I firmly stand by. The UI felt like a place that takes pride in its diversity and believes in a multicultural student-driven community. The UI looked like a platform through which I would receive adequate training to conduct effective research. Also, I strongly feel the need to be involved with the community I live in, and the university provides an excellent platform to work for the community through various support organizations.
Can you provide some examples of your experience as an international student at the UI?
I came to the United States in the middle of the pandemic – August 2020 (not the best time to come). It was hard to leave family and friends during a pandemic and adjust to a new life in a city that was in a complete lockdown. The classes were online, so I had very few personal interactions. I am a very social person and not being able to interact with people was tough on me. Eventually, I met some kind souls, and life started to feel better personally and professionally. The professors and other staff in the College of Public Health were very kind and supportive through the adversities. I am not sure if I should be saying this – but they were kind enough to even offer support with running errands and helping with groceries - they were amazing, and I started feeling at home. Professionally, I had the best professors (I am not even exaggerating); they were very kind and acknowledged the struggles of an international student, and provided the best possible support to excel in academics.
How do you get involved on campus?
During my first semester, I joined the College of Public Health International Students Advisory Board (PHISAB) as a board member. It is amazing to be a part of it, and we work on various initiatives to help and support the incoming and existing international student community. I am also a part of two sub-committees of PHISAB — a student-led lecture series and a peer-to-peer mentorship program.
I also work closely with International Programs. I have been a mentor to an international student, as I believe being there for new international students through one-to-one interactions is very helpful personally and professionally. Additionally, I hold the position of International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) liaison for PHISAB, where I serve as a connecting link to discuss both organizations' best practices and initiatives. I have also been involved as a member of the Global Student Award selection committee and in providing feedback for Life in Iowa and other international student support and engagement programs. Furthermore, I am a part of the ISAB networking events and supporting international student meetings.
Going ahead, I want to expand my contribution by being involved with ISAB and the Graduate and Professional Student Community (GPSC) and continue my efforts in supporting international students (and the Iowa student community in general) in the best way possible.
Can you tell us about your future career plans? How is the UI preparing you for your future success?
I plan to become a professor in health policy and be a part of mental health policy research organizations. I dream of achieving mental health equity in society in my little ways – I might not be able to bring this change to the country or the whole world. Still, I would like to put my best efforts into carrying out policy research and advocacy for improving the mental health of the marginalized and vulnerable population. I am very grateful for Iowa’s multi-disciplinary study environment and professors' strong support as they help you in career planning. The UI provides beneficial library resources and many opportunities to participate in events, podcasts, and webinars, which aid in conducting effective research and help in skill-building. Overall, I consider myself lucky to be in such a supportive study environment with ample opportunities, and I strive to make the best out of it.
What advice would you give to other international students on campus and prospective international students considering the UI?
I want to quote a saying for the international students on campus by Eddie Kennison, "When opportunity presents itself, don't be afraid to go after it." You are in a great place, and there is a myriad of growth opportunities – academically and personally, and it's up to you to make the best use of it and develop a beautiful future. Utilize the university resources as much as possible (they are there for you) and never hesitate to approach the student support organizations. I hope you all make the best out of this and achieve the dream that brought you here.
For prospective students, I would like to say that you would be in great hands if you choose the UI, and I can say this with my two years of experience! Iowa City is a lovely town, with amazing study cafes and food outlets (if that helps). It is a campus town with a lovely vibe, and it is student-friendly in many ways. Academically speaking, before applying, it will be helpful to thoroughly go through your program's website and get in touch with professors (especially potential PhD students) to find out what best the program can offer you based on your interests. Also, do not hesitate to contact other organizations at the university that help and support international students – me included!