Gap Year in the Making

Swathi Mummini entered Macaulay at Hunter in the Fall 2009, expecting to enter medical school after graduation. Just like any other Pre-Med student at Hunter, she fully immersed herself in her courses, hoping the mental workouts, sleepless and food bingeing nights would bring her closer to her goal; however, Mummini resolved to take a year off after graduation and switched her career plans.

Q: What is your current field of study? How has it changed over the years?
A: Right now, I am a psychology major, with a minor in political science, public policy. I have always been a psych major at Hunter, but started off on the Pre-Med track. I initially thought I would be concentrating in behavioral neuroscience. But after taking a small, round table discussion poli-sci class over a summer, I got hooked onto public policy. It made me look at psychology in a more social aspect, specifically the psych behind political ideologies and policymaking. Now, I no longer call myself a Pre-Med, but instead, a Pre-Masters in public health student.

Q: Would you call your summer poli-sci class the catalytic moment that pushed you onto your current track?
A: In a way, yes. But the deeper, underlying reason was how this class pushed me to wonder and think about how I wanted to examine health from a society perspective and not individual. Hence, the switch from potentially becoming a doctor who would examine the health of the individual patient, to public, possibly global, health.

Q: What are some opportunities you took advantage of in the city?
A: I am currently interning at Global Health Corps, as well as helping with research at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, and at Baruch College. I started by seizing on opportunities within the CUNY system at a Baruch marine biology lab, aiding in oyster restoration and nitrogen cycling experiments in order to build research experience. Currently, after networking and simply emailing my current PI, I am interning at the Weill Cornell Center to help identify the barriers to minority women research participation in urban clinics, as part of my psychology major research. I also work at GHC to build on my public policy background.

Q: Global Health Corps sounds so interesting! What do you do, and what do you love about it?
A: I do things interns normally do, but I’m really glad GHC small as it allows for me to feel like a part of the team. Among some of the things I do are helping in research related to program operations in East Africa, and help recruit potential applicants and supporters. Being a part of the recruitment process has shown me a part of public health that I didn’t really connect with the field at first- being a part of all the aspects involved with non-profit management. You really have to work hard to gain financial support if you want to truly conduct research and make an impact on the global scale without financial constraints constantly worrying you in the back of your mind.

Q: What are your career goals?
A: I’m still figuring it out, but as I alluded to earlier, I know I want to work in the public health field and health care policy. I would love to work for WHO.

Q: Why are you planning to take the year off?
A: You know, I initially thought taking a year off was academic and career suicide. But after realizing that I didn’t want to be a doctor, but rather wanted to work in public health and health care policy, I realized that I could use a gap year to my advantage. I’m hoping to do a fellowship for the year, where I would become even more acquainted with the world of health care policy. Not only would I intimately learn about this field, but it would really give me a great academic mental break between college and graduate school, where I can mature and enjoy life to its fullest. Also, what a great way to polish my resume and to make great networking connections!

Q: Any advice for Pre-Med students wary of their choice/ those unsure of taking a year off?
A: Get out of your comfort zone, and try new things!

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