Passion for Justice

Be Curious, Seek the Truth, Never Give Up

by Aayushi Sett, MPH ' 26

Dory: Hey Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do? - Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Aayushi Sett

Growing up, this scene from Finding Nemo was a constant reminder from my parents to be ever curious, to seek the truth, and most importantly, not to give up when faced with challenges. Education was important in our family. My mom held a master’s degree, my dad a Ph.D., and becoming a doctor, holding a plastic stethoscope, had been my dream since I was four years old. So, entering medical school and practicing dentistry for five years felt like a huge accomplishment. However, my passion for making a difference extends beyond academics. In dental school, I co-founded an NGO in India to raise awareness about mental health, a topic rarely discussed openly. Through events and outreach programs, we sparked essential conversations, which solidified my belief in the power of collective action to create lasting change.

While exploring US dental programs, I stumbled upon the intriguing world of public health at USF. Specifically, the program’s focus on behavioral health, which felt like the most impactful way to achieve my goals. Leaving everything familiar behind was hard, but the program has truly been transformative.

Unlike the rote memorization of med school, the MPH program challenges me to think critically about real-world issues, constantly asking, "How can we improve lives?" The supportive professors, engaging classes, and people-centered approach deeply resonated with my values. Here, collaboration thrives; everyone genuinely wants to see each other succeed. It's a community that accepts you for who you are. This fostered a refreshingly healthy and inclusive environment, a stark contrast to the competitive atmosphere I'd experienced elsewhere.

During my upbringing and professional experience, the gender disparity in health care has drawn my attention. Women often receive different treatment, their pain is dismissed or minimized. This inequity ignited a fire within me, a desire to be part of the solution. My approach focuses on empowering women – equipping them with the knowledge and confidence to advocate for themselves, understand their rights, and demand the care they deserve. Decades of conditioning have taught many to accept and compromise, but this cycle needs to stop now. Women deserve to be heard and acknowledged.

For those coming behind me, one of my favorite places at USF is the Koret Lodge, especially at sunset. And in the San Francisco community, where USF is located, you will find Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park which offer breathtaking views after a busy day.

As Dory reminds us, "Just keep swimming!" Even the global pandemic highlighted how much we still have to learn in the medical field. While becoming a doctor remains a source of immense pride, I'm determined to use the unique skillset I've acquired at USF to advocate for a more equitable and patient-centered healthcare system, one voice at a time. True success lies not in monetary rewards but in our positive impact on people's lives. And with that belief as my compass, I will keep swimming.