As a student at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, Komal Agrawal discovered she had a passion for biology, mathematics and research and took courses in Advanced Placement biology and honors science research. She also found out how challenging navigating the health-care system could be when her mother was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease.
These two events led to her interest in improving patient experiences through biomedical informatics, which uses health information technology to improve health-care services.
In August, Agrawal will enter Arizona State University as a freshman in Barrett, The Honors College, majoring in biomedical informatics. She is the first recipient of a scholarship for honors students majoring in biomedical informatics from the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the College of Health Solutions.
“We are very pleased to offer this scholarship to Komal. She clearly articulated to us her future goals to improve patient health care and outcomes through study in biomedical informatics,” said Maria Hanlin, assistant director of graduate programs in the Department of Biomedical Informatics.
According to Hanlin, the department’s undergraduate degree has been offered for two years. Master’s and doctorate degree programs in biomedical informatics have been offered since 2007.
The undergraduate biomedical informatics scholarship was established for freshmen in Barrett as a way to promote the undergraduate program and help support promising students, Hanlin said. The scholarship provides $1,500 per academic year and is renewable for four years. The goal is to add a new incoming recipient each year.
“The field is growing rapidly and has a robust job market. Particularly with recent changes in the health-care system and new breakthroughs in medicine, there is a growing need for individuals who can analyze and interpret large amounts of health-care data. This analysis helps drive strategic decision making in health care,” Hanlin said.
Hanlin added that students can focus on a variety of areas within the overall field of biomedical informatics; for example, mobile health-care app development, population health, electronic medical records integration and security, monitoring social media for health trends, clinical decision support to improve patient care, and genomics and personalized medicine.
“It’s an exciting field in which anyone interested in biology, medicine and information can positively impact health care. The field complements those students who wish to become doctors or provides a solid career for those who wish to impact health care from a broader perspective,” Hanlin said.
Agrawal said she wants to study biomedical informatics with an eye toward helping improve patient health outcomes.
“I hope to bridge the gap between research, technology and hospitals. There is novel research being conducted and published daily from around the world, but while research is developing rapidly, health-care providers are not matching at the same pace. One of my goals is to allow research and technology to be more organized while keeping hospitals progressing as well. Also, I aim to increase patient data sharing among specialists in order to avoid delayed diagnosis and detrimental symptoms towards the patient,” she said.
Agrawal is no stranger to research. Of note is her experience on a research project for the National Institutes of Health, conducting an experiment to test the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and epigenetics, the ability to alter gene expression without changing its DNA sequence.
She also has been involved in the community, holding leadership roles and organizing events and fundraisers for the Red Cross, coordinating summer activities for students in the STEAM Club at the Chandler Public Library, and fundraising to send packages and letters to troops overseas through the Homefront Hugs program. She has also been active in the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, Students for a Sustainable School, and the India Association.
Agrawal looks forward to entering ASU and the honors college in the fall.
“I am very excited that I was admitted and will be able to attend Barrett Honors College. I think I will meet many professors and students who share similar interests with me and that there will be amazing research opportunities as well. The entire academic and social atmosphere will definitely enhance my university experience,” she said.
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