Pedaling the Path to Global Health: A Doctor’s Journey from Medicine to Public Health

I frequently receive questions from friends, colleagues in the scientific and medical fields, all curious about my shift from medicine to public health. I’ve decided to share a concise version of my journey into the world of public health.

I was born in Nepal, a small developing nation in South Asia, nestled between two superpowers, India, and China. My educational journey began in Nepal, where I completed my schooling. Later, I went to China to pursue my medical education at Chongqing Medical University. Upon completing my medical training, I returned to Nepal, where I joined the Western Regional Hospital, the second-largest hospital in the country and a crucial tertiary referral center. In addition to my primary role there, I also held secondary appointments at several private hospitals in the region. Working alongside fellow physicians, we handled a diverse array of cases, with me seeing an average of 60-70 patients per day. My experience spanned various departments, including emergency medicine, general medicine, and otolaryngology, and it was truly enriching.

During my time practicing medicine, I developed a strong desire to engage in community service. In 2014, I co-founded a non-profit organization called Dirghayu Nepal with a mission to assist underserved communities in three key areas: health, education, and human rights. As a Health Services Co-Ordinator of Dirghayu Nepal, I organized and supervised free medical camps, conducted disaster relief efforts, and initiated health awareness campaigns in remote villages. Often, we had to refer patients to higher-level referral centers, located 8-10 hours away on rough dirt roads. Notably, during the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal, I led our team in providing healthcare services and immediate disaster relief camps for six months in the aftermath.

Inspired by these experiences, I felt a calling to engage in global health work, travel extensively, and gain insights into public health challenges within diverse socio-economic and political contexts. In pursuit of this goal, I embarked on a remarkable journey on September 20, 2015, traveling the world on my bicycle with a clear mission: to combat the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. My travels took me to 17 different countries across the globe, where I conducted public health awareness campaigns, workshops, and medical camps. These experiences, both in Nepal and around the world, were incredibly transformative, and I am profoundly grateful to all the individuals I encountered during this journey.

When I eventually concluded my year-and-a-half-long expedition and returned to Nepal, I had a profound realization. I became deeply intrigued by the factors influencing the health of populations and began to question the root causes of widespread medical needs. This curiosity marked the inception of my journey into the field of public health. I resolved to explore studying and understanding the causes, distribution, and patterns of diseases to find interventions to improve the health of people and their communities.

Securing a scholarship, I pursued my master’s degree in public health in the United States. Following my graduation, I dedicated my skills and knowledge to serving as a Disease Investigation Specialist at the local health department in Pennsylvania amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Presently, I am a doctoral candidate in Epidemiology at the University of Miami, continuing my quest to make a meaningful impact on public health.

Society for Epidemiological Conference 2023, Portland, OR

Dr. Baral