Written by: Jennifer Cramer-Miller
The National Kidney Foundation highlights a staggering statistic—37 million American adults have kidney disease, but most don’t know it. There are high stakes for this huge number of undiagnosed people, underscoring the urgency for education and prevention programs. Fortunately, the National Kidney Foundation is not alone in its efforts to address this problem. Meet Saumith Bachigari and Pavan Guttipatti. These undergraduate students share the mission to further community outreach and prevention.
Saumith, a 20-year-old biology student, just launched his junior year at the University of Minnesota. Pavan, a sophomore, also at the University of Minnesota, focuses his time on neuroscience and global studies. Both Saumith and Pavan will pursue medical school after they complete their undergraduate degrees, and both have an affinity for kidneys.
That is why (as if they didn’t have enough to do) this duo started a local chapter of Kidney Disease Screening and Prevention (KDSAP). Founded in 2008 at Harvard College, KDSAP offers college students opportunities to raise awareness of chronic kidney disease and promote early detection. Synergistic with the NKF’s KEEP Healthy Screenings, Saumith and Pavan reached out to Executive Director Mallory Olson, and a program partnership was born.
Born in India, Saumith moved to Minnesota with his family when he was five. An avid reader from a young age, he started with Berenstain Bears and transitioned to anatomy books by fifth and sixth grade. Unconventionally, he found that reading detail-rich books on body structures helped his English. Later, a high school anatomy teacher peppered classroom material with kidney jokes. Early exposure and a touch of entertainment gelled his interest in kidneys. Now, he’s mentored by three nephrology faculty members of the University of Minnesota, as well as working with KDSAP to help the community.
Like Saumith, Pavan discovered an interest in human anatomy at a young age. As a high school junior, he entered a science competition and chose the kidney system as his area of focus. It’s no surprise medicine called to him. Doctoring skills run in his blood. While his grandfather is a doctor in India, his brother is a medical student at Columbia University (who participated in KDSAP while an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania). Pavan’s brother’s positive experience spurred his and Saumith’s interest in KDSAP, and they pursued the opportunity.
Both students agree—chronic kidney disease diagnosis and prevention are critical. This motivates them to work closely with the NKF to further kidney health. It is admirable that these two are dedicating their brain power to help people with kidney disease. For these two ambitious and intelligent students, the future is bright. And today, their dedication shines a light (and inspires hope) for millions of Americans with kidney disease.