A doctoral student in Virginia Tech’s translational biology, medicine, and health program was recently selected as a Virginia Center for Health Innovation Fellow. NithyaPriya Ramalingam, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was one of four students chosen from across the commonwealth to participate in the program.

As a fellow, Ramalingam will work on an initiative to help educate and expedite innovative health care in Virginia. The initiative is funded by the State Innovation Models grant, a federal program aimed at providing support for state-led health system improvements.

Ramalingam recently finished her first year of coursework and qualifying exams in the translational biology, medicine, and health program. She is pursuing a doctorate in the health implementation science focus area.

She focused her studies in the public health sector after completing two years of medical school.

“I saw that the system is not set up to deliver preventative health care,” Ramalingam said. She believed there was hope for ameliorating the imperfect system, so she shifted her career aspirations.

Ramalingam turned to research and worked as a genetics study coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine before joining Virginia Tech’s inaugural class of the translational biology, medicine, and health program in 2014. She said she wants to help develop ways to implement health care innovations more quickly. 

Her focus is on patient-centered outcomes with the ultimate goal of developing, implementing, and testing programs that integrate clinical practice with existing community resources­.

As a Virginia Center Health Innovation Fellow, Ramalingam will help engage health care providers on the Virginia Health Innovation Network, a collaborative online community for the Virginia Health Center. She will also curate monthly innovator interviews, contribute original content to the center’s blog, and take advantage of the opportunity to network with students in other health care fields who are working on the initiative.

The new health innovation fellow said she is looking forward to her work with the center.

“The aim is to make the commonwealth a leader and pioneer in health care provision,” Ramalingam said. “I’m excited to be a part of such an initiative.”

“We are proud of Nithya’s achievement in receiving this highly competitive award,” said Michael Friedlander, co-director of the translational biology, medicine, and health program and executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “This honor reflects well not just on her, but on all the students and faculty in this new graduate program.”

Ramalingam’s mentors in the doctoral program are Assistant Professor Samantha Harden and Professor Paul Estabrooks, both in the Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise Department in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Written by Catherine Grimes