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Schreyer Scholar biology major at forefront of student-led diversity in health care conference

3 March 2022
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Shravan Asthana outside

Shravan Asthana envisions a medical career for himself in which he provides top-tier care for patients. Beyond clinical work, he plans to delve into health systems design and research to improve the ‘how’ of delivering health care.  

A fourth-year Schreyer Scholar at Penn State studying biology-neuroscience and economics, Asthana also serves as Alpha Epsilon Delta’s (AED) president, the University's pre-health honors society. In addition, he is part of the 20-person diversity in health care task force within AED that has organized the conference, “Diversity in Healthcare: Sourcing solutions for better outcomes tomorrow,” set to take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson Center at University Park on Sunday, April 3.  

Registration for the conference is available online and open now. It is open to University Park undergraduate students, medical students, and senior nursing students. 

“We started the diversity in health care task force with the mission to empower each other as peers and discuss meaningful approaches to solving major problems in our health care system,” Asthana said. “The system’s inequalities, inequities, and inefficiencies have always been visible but became obvious during the pandemic.   

“Our vision for the conference, essentially, is to bring students from across University Park into an interdisciplinary setting where we can discuss, brainstorm, and ultimately deliver a change-making mindset where we feel empowered to go out in our careers and make meaningful changes.”  

Asthana and his team intend to gather a diverse group of attendees and use a design thinking model to leverage collective knowledge and ideas. They chose that model because of its ability to quickly produce action plans that, when successfully tested, can be scaled up into real solutions. 

“In design thinking, you challenge yourself to brainstorm and continually iterate on the proposed solutions, Asthana said. “I think it’s a great approach for health care because of how large it can be and how interdisciplinary it is.” 

As president of AED, Asthana took an early role in planning and organizing the conference. While working on an event of this scale is new for him, he said that he’s been able to lean on prior experience forming volunteer committees and mentorship programs for guidance. 
 
With the task force and several sponsors collaborating on the conference, Asthana has found particular value in lessons he’s learned around coordinating team members and finding the best role for everyone. He’s also quick to share credit for the work that’s been done.   

“Our team is awesome, and we’re all aligned on the values we’re pursuing,” he said. “Additionally, this conference wouldn’t be possible without our amazing sponsors from the College of Medicine, the Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing, the College of Health and Human Development, Eberly College of Science, Schreyer Honors College, the pre-health advising office in the Eberly College of Science, and the Office of Educational Equity.”  

As the conference’s date approaches, Asthana and his team are focused on delivering two outcomes for participants; evolving their perspectives on their role and power to affect change as students and professionals, and testing some solutions proposed by attendees. 

When the conference concludes on April 3, Asthana will be just over one month away from completing his undergraduate degree. As he looks toward a career in medicine, he sees a clear correlation between his work on the conference and skills development that will benefit him as a professional. 

“In my career, I know I’m going to be working with folks across the health care ecosystem, whether they’re with the drug companies, insurance companies, members of the health care team, hospital administrators, or health care economists,” Asthana said. “Understanding how to communicate across these disciplines, how to bring us all together on one mission is something that is really pivotal to where I see my career going.” 

Penn State faculty members and other University stakeholders who want to get involved in the conference can email Asthana at sfa5385@psu.edu.