Students Who Rocked Public Health 2019: Raj P. Fadadu 

by Raj P. Fadadu 


Last December, Raj P. Fadadu, a MS/MD candidate at UC Berkeley School of Public Health/UC San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, was listed as one of 13 Students Who Rocked Public Health in 2019 for his innovative research on the relatively unexplored connection between pollution and skin health. Here, he describes his efforts in more detail. Follow along each month as we profile all 13 Students Who Rocked Public Health 2019.

I come from a family lineage of farm workers in India, and throughout my upbringing in California, my parents constantly took me hiking to share with me the intimate connection they developed with the earth during their work on family farms. My family history and appreciation for nature instilled a personal dedication to protect and respect the natural environment from a young age. I became interested in how human health intersects with the natural world and how our actions impact the environment. This led me to study Public Health and Conservation and Resource Studies at the University of California (UC), Berkeley during college, and I am now a MS/MD candidate in the Joint Medical Program between the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and UC San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine. I have engaged in many environmental health research projects and held leadership roles in health-related organizations. 

Currently, I am conducting research on the effects of wildfire-associated air pollution on clinic visits for atopic dermatitis and itch at UCSF. The relationship between air pollution and skin health is often overlooked.  However, it is becoming increasingly important to study as the frequency and intensity of wildfires are expected to increase. Through my environmental health research projects, I have learned the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving. The results of my projects have multisectoral effects, as they can influence health care delivery, clinical medicine, community health education, climate policy, and environmental justice work. Public health is a broad field, which provides several opportunities for collaboration across fields to maximize impact. 

Virtual oral presentation I gave at the Society of Investigative Dermatology’s Annual Meeting in 2020

I am also the Director of the Environmental Health Working Group of the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition. After recognizing a lack of local climate action focused on health, I founded this group in 2019.  It focuses on addressing and mitigating the health implications of climate change that affect the local community through education and advocacy. We have been working on promoting local tree-planting initiatives, increasing education around green lifestyle choices, improving sustainability polices at schools, and hosting community advocacy and education events. While the COVID-19 pandemic limited the amount of direct outreach work we could perform, we have adapted by shifting many of our events and educational materials to be held and shared virtually. This work has demonstrated the significance of keeping stakeholder voices at the forefront throughout a project lifecycle.  Much of our work has been inspired by local residents communicating their concerns. We have sought input and feedback from community members to design our events and materials. We have been actively working with the community, for the community.

Video that Medical Students for a Sustainable Future made for Earth Day 2020 to call for climate action

My most recent environmental education work includes critically evaluating my medical program’s curriculum, research, and community advocacy efforts through completing the Planetary Health Report Card created by UCSF. We will use this tool to analyze institutional policies and medical education in order to find opportunities to integrate topics related to planetary health. I am also establishing an environmental health-related student organization in my medical program and collaborating with students and faculty at the Stanford School of Medicine to raise awareness of sustainable practices in healthcare.

Poster presentation at the American Public Health Association (APHA)’s Annual Meeting in 2019

My journey in public health has exposed me to the complexity of human health. I have learned about the multitude of factors—including social, political, economic, and technological—that coalesce to impact the health of individuals and communities through my environmental health projects and work with people experiencing homelessness as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow and Director of the Medical Division of the Suitcase Clinic. These experiences have allowed me to use public health frameworks and theories to improve health education, promote health equity, and increase access to care. In the future, I plan to treat patients as a physician, conduct environmental health research as a scientist, and translate patient stories and research findings into community advocacy as a public health leader. 

Read About More Students Who Rock:

Raj P. Fadadu grew up in the Bay Area and received a BA in public health from UC Berkeley in May 2018. He directly matriculated to a MS/MD program between UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. His interests in public health include environmental health research and work with underserved communities. Connect with Raj on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/rajfadadu/.