Priya knew her calling at a very young age. Through travel, she was exposed to the disparities between gender and race worldwide. She went to medical school to train as an OB, but knew she didn’t want to pace the hospital wards 24/7. “I wanted to do global health and help girls and women,” she remembers.
Here are her strategies for living intentionally and making a difference.
Passion is a choice
I think you either do things in life filled with passion or you don’t. People see my enthusiasm and ask when I hit my “off switch” and relax. I don’t understand their thinking. When you love what you do there is no “off switch.” If you’re not feeling passionate, then you should rethink what you’re doing.
Power is a responsibility
I learned that no one was going to advocate for the women and girls in my family if they didn’t do it themselves. The same goes for life. You have to be an unashamed advocate for women’s issues because no one else is going to be. If you’ve gone up the ladder, you have to make sure that the ladder is easier for the women following.
Use your strengths, and outsource your weaknesses
I do this at work and at home. I’m terrible at some household chores, so I outsource them. At work I’ve built a diverse team around me to make up for any professional weaknesses. But I also acknowledge my strengths. When I was young I was fundraising for cervical cancer. A gentleman told me I could sell anything—I’m a great used car salesman. I use that to my advantage for to advocate women and girls.
Read between the lines
Any time I’ve struggled to know what’s going on, I always ask myself if there is another narrative. One of my previous admins seemed high capacity but she wasn’t producing. I spoke with her and found out there was a lot going on in her personal life. In the field, remember to look beyond what is in your central vision, and look for what they’re not telling you.
Don’t let others label you
There’s no single way to be a woman. You have to carve your own path. You have to be confident. Other women need to support you and you need to support other women. Define who you are and don’t let anyone label you.
You’re always ON
Be authentic, because someone is always watching. There is no dress rehearsal. When I was doing my PhD research in India, we hired 4 shy student nurses. Over 18 months I saw them grow and demand their rights from an influential 80 year old doctor. They said they watched me.
I was their role model, “You look like us. You’re brown. You’re a girl. We watched you stand up to people and it enables us to do it too.”
More from Priya…
What advice would you give your younger self, knowing what you know now?
No one can make you feel a certain way about something or yourself. That power is yours. I faced a lot of racism as a child. I wish I knew then that I had the power to decide how to feel about their words.
Who saw something in you early on that you did not see in yourself?
My mother–even to this day. She said I was meant to give more back to society than I would take…I hope she is right. She was always aiming higher for me than I ever thought possible.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
With 800 women dying in childbirth each day, Merck for Mothers is a 10-year, $500 million initiative that fights to end preventable maternal mortality all around the world.