Saloni Parikh combines a passion for public health with a talent for computer programming. As an undergraduate, Parikh participated in a global health study in Kenya, helping develop a mobile application that allowed healthcare workers to track pregnant mothers with HIV. She is now making her mark on the United States’ health care system as a product manager at Providence St. Joseph Health.
Why did you decide to double-major in public health and computer science?
I really wanted to be a doctor, like my dad and grandfather, and liked the idea of being immersed in a healthcare setting. I started taking public health classes and really enjoyed them. I was also working at the Kidney Research Institute at Harborview and started writing small computer programs there. I fell in love with it and liked the idea of combining these two subjects. My academic background in Public Health has given me a unique perspective to think about technical problems with an emphasis on population health and preventative care.
You were able to go to Kenya to conduct research as an undergraduate. What was that like?
My computer science teacher connected me with Professor Gaetano Borriello, and he then introduced me to Carey Farquhar, who did HIV research in Kenya and used mobile tools for data collection. I got involved in the HOPE study (Home-based Partner Education and Testing), a randomized trial that involved giving HIV testing and counseling to the partners of pregnant women. I the middle person, meeting with the global health folks and figuring out what they wanted and working in my computer lab to determine what was possible. When Dr. Farquhar asked me if I'd be interested in going to Kenya to conduct training, my jaw dropped. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was there for three weeks. I trained the data manager and about 10 community health workers and nurses on Android debugging tools.
Saloni Parikh loves the storytelling component of Indian classical dance. Dance photo by Tim Tan
The study concluded a few years ago. Home-based HIV testing for pregnant couples resulted in higher male partner and couple testing, in addition to higher rates of HIV status disclosure. Throughout my time working on the HOPE study, I connected and built relationships with an incredible group of people and gained experience with problem solving and troubleshooting on the ground.
What did you do for fun while at the UW?
I was on the UW dance team called Natya, which is Sanskrit for dance. I love the storytelling component to it because it's a really expressive art form. That was my way of connecting to my Indian culture and learning about Hinduism and Hindu mythology. I practiced six days a week for two or three hours a day. It was a great break from all the hours I spent on a computer screen.
What are you doing now?
I am currently a Product Manager at Providence St. Joseph Health. I develop healthcare intelligence applications, leveraging real-time clinical data and advanced analytics to improve patient experience, clinical outcomes and hospital revenue performance.
What advice do you have for current public health students?
I encourage students who are pursuing Public Health to embrace opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. If you are on the fence about making the leap to a graduate program or further education, I highly recommend pursuing internships, travel, and volunteer work to help grow your skill set and expose you to challenges and opportunities in the public health space.