Fourth-year medical student Anupriya Dayal’s upbringing and a horrific accident could easily have dampened her spirits and sent her life in a different direction. Instead, they provided focus and helped define the medical career she has chosen to pursue.
Anupriya was born in New Delhi, India, but immigrated with her family to the Bay area of California when she was seven. Her early years were spent with family members and friends who responded to adversity by pursuing drugs, running away, and joining gangs – decisions that had negative legal and financial consequences.
“I remember in sixth grade, how my friends would discuss which street gangs to join based off of experiences of friends, family and acquaintances,” Anupriya said. “Growing up around this, and around family members who made some troubling decisions that got them in trouble, was difficult, but I discovered a coping mechanism is to look for the forest in the trees. I used the opportunity to learn about the system, dissect the intricacies, look for improvement options and assess the feasibility of the solutions.”
From this, Anupriya found her inspiration for health policy making, which she hoped would allow her to “impact thought processes and policy that govern everyday lives of people from all walks of life.”
Then, six and a half years ago, Anupriya was in a major accident that required 18 months of full-time rehabilitation to regain function of her upper body and caused her to struggle with memory loss, vivid dreams/flashbacks and intense pain.
“I realized why some nerve disorders are dubbed ‘suicide diseases,’ Anupriya said. “The pain can be unremitting.”
The experience of this accident, and the care experience that followed, was difficult but also eye-opening to Anupriya.
“I learned what it means to be a patient every day of your life and how healthcare bureaucracies and social epidemics can affect every day living,” Anupriya said. “As a young 20-something showing up in the ER for pain crises, I was always questioned about my pain-seeking behavior before the appropriate care would be given to me in a timely fashion. I was upset that I was constantly questioned about the sincerity of my condition resulting in a delay of care administration.”
It was at this point that Anupriya more clearly defined the direction of her medical career and decided to pursue pain management health advocacy.
“I started my pain management advocacy by wanting to deconstruct the thought process surrounding pain seekers because of how some studies show that the majority of pain complaints are real; however, it was not until medical school I realized the facts of the extent of the opioid epidemic such as deaths exceeding those of car accidents.”
Anupriya’s first foray into pain management health policy was as a member of the Wisconsin Medical Society Opioid Task Force, which she joined her second year of medical school. In this role, she was in the unique position to provide a voice for both trainees and patients and contributed to efforts at the state and federal level.
Anupriya applied to MCW for her MD because of a recommendation of a friend who attended, but also because she still had limited mobility while applying, and MCW was the only school that offered her the chance to enter full time rehab and come back to continue school at her own pace.
“Attending MCW was a wise decision,” Anupriya said. “The administrators know every student by name. The technology use cannot get any better. Also, I am grateful for instances such as accommodation to take my Pharmacology exam, which was hand written instead of multiple choice. Because I had not regained dexterity of my dominant hand, I needed to write those tests with my left hand. I also benefited from very understanding administration when it came to dexterity-intense rotations such as surgery and OBGYN.”
The next step in her maturation as a physician is her residency. Anupriya is matched in radiation oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She is excited that she will be given a year off at the end of her residency to pursue her passion of pain management health advocacy such as at a government agency in Washington, D.C. She also plans to pursue her MBA.
“If you look at me now, you would never be able to tell that I was in an accident, so I am grateful for recovering in the best way possible from the worst case scenario of an accident, especially considering how many people die or become paraplegic, hemiplegic or quadriplegic,” Anupriya said. “I hope to continue advocating for those who have been in accidents and are not as fortunate as I have been, and for those with unremitting pain."
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