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Who's in CHARGE?: Pranav Mehta

May 30, 2024

“Who’s in CHARGE?” spotlights a member of the AAMC Collaborative for Health equity: Act, Research, Generate Evidence (CHARGE), a forum for investigators, clinicians, and community partners who design and implement research and policies that eliminate health and health care inequities. May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and we’re featuring Pranav Mehta, a medical student at UTHealth McGovern Medical School, Project UNITY co-founder, and AAMC CHARGE virtual community ambassador. Connect with Pranav in the AAMC virtual community and on LinkedIn.

Pranav Mehta

What sparked your interest in health equity work?

My interest in health equity sparked during the COVID-19 pandemic when I saw how disproportionately the virus affected my South Asian community, especially those with pre-existing diabetes. The lack of South Asian-centric resources highlighted a significant inequity, motivating me to collaborate with health care leaders to design personalized resources for COVID-19 and diabetes. Together we created virtual health education webinars in my community’s native language, stress management workshops using Eastern practices, and dietary modification sessions for popular cultural meals. After witnessing the positive impact of these customized efforts, I recognized the importance of addressing the unique barriers that each community faces. Since then, I have led health equity projects in Houston, collaborating with Rice University and the Texas Medical Center to design community-focused initiatives and academic courses centered on advancing public health outcomes. These experiences have taught me that each community faces visible and invisible inequities. As a future medical professional, I have the responsibility to not just learn about them but also to take action.

What health equity project are you most proud of or excited about?

I am most proud of Project UNITY, a national student-led nonprofit focused on building the next generation of trailblazers for public health equity. As co-founder and executive director, I lead Catalyst Academy, our flagship summer public health mentorship program. Here we immerse high school students into the field of public health by providing education from renowned health care experts, public health career exploration workshops, and hands-on experience with health equity project design. Our tailored curriculum empowers students to research public health inequities, interview stakeholders, create personalized community-focused interventions in their hometowns, and present their innovations to the scientific community. Project UNITY reinforces my commitment to nurturing future equity-driven health care leaders, and I am energized to continue leading similar initiatives each year. 

Do you have any health equity heroes? 

Kedar Mate, MD, is my health equity hero. As president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, he is a trailblazer for health care reform and driving forward sustainable health care models. I admire his commitment to educating young leaders about the evolving landscape of public health, his genuine intentions, and his forward-thinking approach to advancing global health equity. Dr. Mate inspires me to become a physician who makes a meaningful impact both within the clinic and beyond.

Imagine you’re a principal investigator on your dream research project. What’s the question you’re trying to answer?

I am fascinated by the intersection of sports and technology. My dream research project would investigate how virtual reality (VR) training can enhance the performance and cultural adaptability of athletes from diverse backgrounds. Specifically, I would examine how customizable VR environments can simulate various cultural settings and competitor play styles, helping athletes adapt to unfamiliar, high-stress environments. I value multidisciplinary approaches and am excited to apply my medical background across diverse research fields, including AI and technology, sports, public health, and health equity. If you’re interested in collaborating, feel free to reach out!

What health equity or social justice issue do you think deserves more attention than it gets right now? 

We are in the middle of a technological health care shift. As AI-driven tools and digital resources become more prevalent, seamless technological adoption remains a pressing concern. We need to study how providers and users perceive and integrate these advancements for improved health outcomes, and tailor digital health education accordingly. Additionally, given the disparities in historically marginalized data, our scientific community needs to continue promoting equitable data-driven tools and research. I am eager to combine my medical background with AI and public health to contribute toward health equity advancements in our evolving health care landscape. 

What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy playing baseball, flipping through new books, and listening to music with my friends and family. 

You can meet other health equity champions like Pranav in the AAMC CHARGE virtual community. Interested in nominating yourself or a colleague for a future “Who’s in CHARGE?” member spotlight? 

Submit your nomination here