Liberal Arts’ Priya Dave named top IUPUI student

For many people, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro might be the peak accomplishment of their life.

For Priya Dave, that was just winter break.

Dave, a senior medical humanities student in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, was named IUPUI’s top student at the 2018 IUPUI Top 100 Outstanding Students Recognition Dinner. She will take her success to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City where she begins medical school in the fall.

Medicine interested Dave early in life as she watched her younger sister struggle with a chronic illness. Dave remembers attending numerous doctors’ appointments when they were children and watching the illness progress. “Seeing the doctor/ patient relationship in those visits helped confirm the career I wanted,” she says. Her sister is now healthy and studying at IU-Bloomington. It was her idea that she and Priya should climb Mount Kilimanjaro together—a six-day feat they accomplished.

IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar, Priya Dave
IUPUI Chancellor Paydar, Priya Dave

Dave graduated from Center Grove High School and, after being awarded a Bepko Scholarship from the honor’s college, set her sights on IUPUI. “I really liked the urban environment that IUPUI has,” she says. “We have five major hospitals around here so that was a big draw as well. I was a biology major when I started and then took a medical humanities class and really loved it. It was an opportunity to explore something completely different that I wouldn’t have had time to do in medical school.”

Dave says the medical humanities program within the School of Liberal Arts offers the opportunity to explore many fields and pathways that connect to medicine and the liberal arts with classes as diverse as the history of medicine, bioethics, and the sociology of death and dying. “All these various perspectives will prepare me to be a stronger and more empathetic physician,” she says. “This major was a perfect fit for me.”

She credits each course in the program for giving her a unique perspective that she will take with her through grad school and beyond. One such perspective was the theme of blame in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” The book asks if the monster is responsible for his own actions or if Dr. Frankenstein, the creator, should be held accountable. “The concept of blame is very relevant to medicine,” Dave says. “A patient has to deal with what caused a diagnosis.” She will take her research on blame and present it at Stanford University’s Health Humanities Consortium Conference on April 20.

IUPUI has offered Dave a wealth of internship and study abroad opportunities as well. As a Spanish minor, she was able to put her speaking skills to work at the University of Havana, helping the Distributed Drug Discovery Lab teach students about neglected diseases and the need to discover medications to fight them. She’s also traveled to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Panama through IUPUI Study Abroad and Global Medical Brigades, a program that goes to a new Latin American country each year to set up a medical clinic.

Dave also helped revive the medical humanities club and is now the president. She has staged a mock bioethics committee event, helped planned the Midwest Medical Humanities Undergraduate Conference, and visited art museums to discuss how different works relate to the liberal arts.

“Priya is a disciplined, high-achieving scholar, whose natural curiosity and desire to fully develop her abilities has led her to pursue an unusually rigorous and diverse curriculum throughout her four years at IUPUI, supplemented by numerous service and extra-curricular activities,” says Dr. Emily Beckman, director of and assistant professor in the medical humanities and health studies program. “Priya is also a thoughtful, caring young woman, and truly a person of excellent character and integrity. She has demonstrated through her four years at IUPUI a dedication to integrating the humanities, social and natural sciences, and even fine arts to foster improvements in the human condition.”

Along with being the top student at IUPUI, Dave was also the School of Liberal Arts Faculty Medal of Academic Distinction winner and a William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion.

“I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to support aspects of the humanities within medicine,” Dave says. “I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had and to be recognized. [IUPUI's top student award] is a reflection of all the incredible opportunities that my mentors at IUPUI afforded me. IUPUI provided the ideal environment to excel in anything and everything I could imagine. I am beyond grateful for my experience at IUPUI, culminating in this honor."