MD Class of 2021
Sanofi Pasteur Scholar
Although Stroudsburg native Shradha Chhabria has a passion for global health, she believes the wellbeing of entire populations begins on a much smaller scale. “Change happens at the community level,” she said. “It happens one-on-one.” Shradha speaks from experience, having undergone a complete transformation by achieving greater personal wellbeing under the guidance of her revered guru during a year she spent living in an ashram in Haryana, India.
Shradha’s path from Stroudsburg to Haryana was forged by the stressful, frenetic pace of student life, first in a college-preparatory high school (Moravian Academy) and then at an elite university (Georgetown), made all the more grueling by being on the pre-med track. “In the U.S., most chronic noncommunicable diseases are lifestyle-driven. We live life under tremendous pressure and lack coping mechanisms built into our culture. In other cultures, people would never eat in their car or at their desk for the sake of efficiency. Here it’s the norm,” she said.
By the time Shradha got her degree in global health, she was suffering a variety of stress-related ailments, from depression to obesity. She was foggy-brained from the variety of medications she was taking. “I knew I needed to get my own health back on track,” she said. So before tackling medical school, she decided to take a gap year in India.
At the ashram in Haryana, Shradha meditated, practiced yoga, received Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medical care and received spiritual guidance from Guru Anandmurti Gurumaa. Her relationships with food, with her body and with her mind were changed “dramatically.” She lost more than 50 pounds and no longer required daily medications. “The experience helped me understand how deeply interrelated physical and mental health are, and how every lifestyle choice we make affects both,” Shradha said. Meditation helped her to find a calm space in her mind that she can still reach now that she has returned to the U.S. and resumed a busy schedule.
Shradha said her gap year has given her insights into how she wants to practice medicine in the future. Her interest is in integrative medicine that infuses the Western focus on acute care and procedures with the Eastern concern for root causes. “Medicine should focus on prevention, starting with people’s day-to-day choices,” she said. “We should understand symptoms as the result of an underlying cause and educate and empower people to find their own solutions to lifestyle problems. I have great hope that my generation can bring these changes to medicine. The fact that my medical school welcomed a workshop on yoga nidra [a form of guided meditation] tells me there is a growing understanding of the power of integrative medicine.”