March 21, 2023

Wayne Med-Direct scholar finds her passion and her people in Detroit

All the way from Katy, Texas, Kalyyanee (“Kull-yah-nee”) Nanaaware (“Nuh-nah-wuh-ray”) began her journey as a future doctor in the place where her parents immigrated from India 25 years ago. Admitted to the Wayne Med-Direct scholars program in 2019 — a tuition-free B.S. to M.D. pipeline that only accepts 10 students per year — Nanaaware feels it’s fate that she’s at Wayne State.

“I was born in metro Detroit,” laughed Nanaaware. “It’s kind of crazy that this is where I’ve been for almost four years and where I’ll be for another four [for medical school]. It’s a full-circle moment for sure, which is actually really beautiful.”

Wayne Med-Direct Scholar at the 2022 Glasgow OBHM conference in Scotland.
Nanaaware had the opportunity to attend and present at the 2022 Glasgow Organization for Human Brain Mapping Conference in Scotland.

Nanaaware is a double major in neuroscience and anthropology who dreams of bringing change and medical care to underserved areas around the world. Having traveled all over — South Africa, Scotland and Maharashtra, India, where her family is from — she’s seen firsthand how health care differs across the globe. “Beginning my journey to becoming a physician, I knew I wanted to do something that involved giving back to the communities I came from; my family is from India, all my relatives live in villages, so I grew up seeing medical care in those areas. I’ve always known I wanted to go back and provide that care someday.”

Before Nanaaware moves across the pond, she’s enjoying her time as a college student, living on campus, playing on and helping establish a club tennis team, and traveling, all the while figuring out who her people are. “It’s no secret that traditionally, Wayne State is a commuter school. Coming from Texas, it was a bit difficult for me to find my people at first,” admitted Nanaaware. Fortunately, with a cohort of 10 students who are all on an eight-year journey together, the Wayne Med-Direct scholars provided a seamless way to find friends.

Then COVID happened. Coming back from Texas after quarantining with her family, Nanaaware decided she was going to take advantage of every opportunity she could to get involved. Undergraduate research, club tennis, volunteering — she took that charge very seriously. “I’ve met such a range of great people here at Wayne State,” she said. “I don’t think I necessarily would’ve met all these diverse people at other universities; it’s the best part of my experience here. And being in Detroit. A lot of things I’ve experienced are due to Wayne State’s location and role in the Detroit community.”

On top of getting involved and finding lifelong friends, Nanaaware’s been busy conducting research and discovering new interests. Since her freshman year, she’s been a mentee of Dr. Vaibhav Diwadkar in the Wayne State School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. The two have traveled to Scotland to present research, as well as other national locations, and currently are working on a manuscript.

Wayne Med-Direct student sitting on a rock wall in Africa, the ocean behind her.
Through national and global exploration, Nanaaware has deepened her passion for health care and anthropology.

“Coming in as a freshman and working with him, I was overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know,” reflected Nanaaware. “I’ve been on a learning curve over the past few years, and it’s been really rewarding having Dr. Diwadkar’s mentorship. To present my research amongst such intelligent, world-renowned neuroscientists was really amazing. And to see all the work and effort I put into it come to life; it’s a great celebration of the work and its potential.”

Out of this interest in research and its real-world applications, Nanaaware found herself drawn to anthropology. “With the research piece, it’s been intellectually challenging and interesting to me. Through anthropology, I’ve been exposed to the medical side of the field and all the possibilities that come with it,” she said. “I could see myself integrating medical anthropology with the work I do in the future, getting in the community — local, national, international — and being involved in research that’s directly benefitting the population, talking to people one-on-one and driving that patient-centered care; that’s important to me, the human aspect.”

Traveling also is important to Nanaaware, having grown up visiting India, going on adventures with her family and studying abroad in South Africa. She hopes to continue to see the world and keep an open mind. “It also ties into my anthropological interests,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in the outside world and learning more about what lies beyond what I see. There’s more to discover out there and every time you travel, your mind and perspective on things shapes and sharpens.”

On paper, Nanaaware has it all together and figured out — school, friendships, her resume and next steps — and she does, she’s a rockstar, but she admits the day-to-day reality is a bit more unbalanced. “I’d really like to say I’ve mastered the art of balancing everything,” she laughed. “A calendar helps. Scheduling out your free time, gym time, study time and prioritizing the things that matter to you. I tell myself, ‘There’s 24 hours in a day, let’s make the most of it.’”

By Katheryn Kutil

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