UC grad looks to bright future in medicine, community service

 Spanish and medicine double-major earns Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence

 By Rebecca Schweitzer 

 University of Cincinnati undergraduate Priyanka Sai Vemuru took full advantage of opportunities offered to her in the College of Arts and Sciences, from volunteer work in Guatemala to service learning projects  in Cincinnati.

Vemuru graduated this year as a Spanish and medical sciences double major through the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Medicine.

For her commitment to service and academic excellence, Vemuru was one of just six students out of more than 6,000 graduating seniors chosen to receive the 2021 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence.  

Established in 2002, the Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence is a prestigious honor awarded by UC President Neville G. Pinto to exceptional graduating students who best exemplify scholarship, leadership, character, service and the ideals of the university.

UC grad Priyanka Sai Vemuru, recipient of a 2021 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence.

UC grad Priyanka Sai Vemuru, recipient of a 2021 Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence.

“Through the College of Arts and Sciences, I was given the opportunities to participate in psychological research, service centers, and AmeriCorps — all of which centered around the Latino community,” Vemuru said.

“It was my professors who gave me the direct connection to community work. Without them, I would not have had any of the most impactful experiences from my undergraduate career,” she said.

During her undergraduate studies, Vemuru volunteered in Guatemala at an assisted living facility for people with physical and mental disabilities. She also volunteered at Women, Infants, and Children, a maternal and neonatal health and education clinic; and Santa Maria Community Services, a nonprofit education, health and finance organization for immigrant families. 

“Through this work, I was able to see, firsthand, the positive impact that one person can have on their community,” Vemuru said. “These opportunities kept me grounded and always made me realize the importance of community service--even when it is frustrating.”

Find your passions and run with them.

-- Priyanka Sai Vemuru, UC graduate

During her time at UC, Vemuru also worked with many university or Cincinnati organizations: Chi Omega Recruitment, the University Honors Program, the Connections Dual Admissions Program, the Racial Awareness Pilot Program, ROAR tour guides, Cincinnati Women in Excellence and Spirit, Cincinnati Children's Medical Scribe Program, Interfaith Hospitality Animal Shelter and UC's psychology and chemistry departments as a research assistant.

For her next step, Vemuru heads to UC’s College of Medicine to become a physician, with her long-term goal of working with immigrant communities to advocate for those that remain underserved and undocumented. As she moves on to her next chapter, Vemuru encourages incoming students to focus on self-discovery though their undergraduate degrees. 

“Your undergraduate experience has the potential to be the most formative four years of your life,” said Vemuru. “As you are discovering newfound responsibilities and independence, you have the opportunity to reflect and decide what you want in life. Find your passions and run with them. If you do this, you'll meet more people you connect with and truly find joy in life.”

Featured image: UC Priyanka Sai Vemuru in Guatemala where she volunteered to work with people with disabilities. Photo/Provided