Graduation awards honoree, M.D./Ph.D. to be, eager to serve vulnerable populations

May 13, 2022  //  FOUND IN: News
Devika Priya Bagchi

Fourth-year medical student Devika Priya Bagchi acknowledges that she is fortunate to have had access to top-quality health care, education, and social support during her life, factors which have allowed her to thrive and achieve her goals.

One of those goals becomes reality later today when Bagchi will cross the stage at Hill Auditorium to become Devika Bagchi, M.D., Ph.D. She is one of 162 medical students who will participate in U-M Medical School Commencement, which returns to Hill for an in-person program for the first time since 2019. Faculty, staff, fellow learners and the Michigan Medicine community also can watch the ceremony live on YouTube at 3 p.m. this afternoon:

With her diploma in hand and her residency in pediatrics set to begin this summer at Boston Children’s Hospital, Bagchi will continue her efforts to give back and help others, including those who do not have the best access to top-quality healthcare, education, and social support.

“My journey in medicine has been driven by both a desire and a sense of responsibility to serve vulnerable populations and to find ways to overcome barriers to healthcare access and science education,” she said. “As I have learned about the journey that has led each patient to a seat in front of me, I have gained a deeper understanding of the various barriers to healthcare that many patients face and the importance of holistic care and advocacy.”

During her time at Michigan, the native of Champaign, Illinois, founded SEEK (Science Education & Engagement for Kids), a student-run organization that provides hands-on science lessons and longitudinal mentorship to elementary school children in local low-resource classrooms. She is grateful for the opportunities and institutional support to become involved in and lead local community engagement projects such as SEEK.

“I learned firsthand how to develop and implement an interdisciplinary program and to effectively work alongside community organizations to give voice to and uplift the most vulnerable members of our community,” she said. “More importantly, I have come away with a much deeper understanding of the institutional and societal barriers that many children and their families face, as well as a determination to meaningfully address social determinants of health in my future practice.”

Bagchi also earned a Ph.D. in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology as one of 16 graduates of the Medical Scientist Training Program for 2022. She studied in the laboratory of Ormond MacDougald, Ph.D., studying the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in adipocyte function, with the goal of understanding molecular underpinnings of obesity and molecular disease. She hopes to apply her research background in lipid biology, fatty acid metabolism, and intercellular crosstalk to the biology of pediatric cancers. 

“With each patient, I have also found myself driven by a desire to understand the ‘why’ behind illness. Scientific research has allowed me to delve deeper into the pathophysiology of illnesses that often transcend all boundaries, including ethnicity, geography, and socioeconomic status, and silently wreak havoc on the bodies of so many of our patients,” she said. “As a physician-scientist, I hope to walk hand-in-hand with my future patients, advocating for and providing them with culturally competent and holistic care while pushing forward our understanding of disease pathogenesis through novel paths of scientific inquiry.”

Bagchi will graduate as one of the Class of 2022’s most-decorated students. She is the recipient of the George R. DeMuth Medical Scientist Award for Excellence and the Harry A. Towsley Award. She also is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha — the national honor medical society — and will graduate with distinction in both service and research.

A full list of student and faculty awards, with descriptions, can be found here.