Breaking Norms and Improving Lives

Rishabh Jain

Rishabh Jain

MPH ’18, Epidemiology


While living in Virginia and working at the state's public health lab as a molecular biologist, Rishabh Jain was a member of response teams handling the Ebola and Zika threats. The experience made him realize the impact he, as a scientist, could have on entire populations. "With my background and training, I knew then I would pursue a leadership role in public health so I could be part of important higher-level decisions," Jain says.

Jain knew his transition into epidemiology would be challenging, so he was attracted to Michigan Public Health's reputation for strong professional development. "My professors are all top researchers, but they're also really good at training us for professional life and helping us gain and build the skills we need to succeed in the workforce," Jain says.

Jain's summer 2017 internship at Health Care Service Corporation as an internal consultant was his first time in a corporate setting. But it helped him feel prepared for the position he'll begin this summer as a management consultant at Accenture in New York City. "I had my job lined up six months before graduation, actually," Jain says. "I spent time just after my internship networking with our vast alumni base and trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do, where I could do it, and who would want me! Every single alum I reached out to was willing to talk with me and made time to connect about my questions and interests."

The service-oriented culture at Michigan Public Health, Jain says, keeps everyone focused on what they will do after they earn a degree. "What you will do with your degree. Who you will become. How you will serve. Everyone is thinking about taking care of people, of using our science to serve populations."

So Jain regularly reached out to the most diverse voices he could find, listening and challenging himself. "People embody the Michigan difference," Jain says. "Those around me provide different angles on everything from academic to personal interests." His Munger Case Competition team drew members from five different schools, all working on the DE&I strategic plan. His work with the Institute for Health Care Improvement put him at the table with students from every health-related school on campus.

In more casual settings, Jain pushed himself outside his comfort zone with even greater intentionality, cultivating a heterogeneous circle of friends. "My experiences at Michigan were defined in large part by the people around me. I interacted a lot with those I knew would challenge me and had interests that would stretch my own interests. These people helped me grow, change, and become a more engaged person."

On behalf of his peers in the School of Public Health, Jain offered the following remarks this afternoon to the community gathered for commencement. 

What led me to opportunities unimaginable was, in fact, the support of you all, my fellow classmates. You, the future leaders of the field, encouraged me to push back on the countless nos I received and resist the pressure of comfort in conformity.

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Rishabh Jain, MPH
Remarks on Behalf of Students
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Thank you and good afternoon everyone.

Last year, a medical student looked me dead in the eyes and said that he "see[s] no place for public health in the context of improving the lives of patients." This existential no shook every fiber in my body. How could someone who comes from one of the most respected institutions in the entire country, someone who represents the next generation of the physician workforce, someone who serves as a key influence in patient outcomes, not see our discipline as a critical component to improving the future of the individual and the collective society? This comment—while jarring—prompted reflection on my unique journey at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience.

When I entered the world of public health, I began to relentlessly search for a specific role defined by the extrinsic bounds of my qualifications, degree, and department. However, I quickly discovered that my career goals weren't aligned with what was considered a "typical track." So naturally, I struggled a bit in attempting to align my interests within the guidelines of my discipline.

I enrolled in atypical courses within and outside of the School of Public Health, participated in extracurricular activities where I was the only member representing my department (or even school), applied for jobs desiring qualifications unexpected of someone with my background, and cultivated revered relationships with individuals across our seven departments and the rest of the university. However, this was only the start.

What led me to opportunities unimaginable was, in fact, the support of you all, my fellow classmates. You, the future leaders of the field, encouraged me to push back on the countless nos I received and resist the pressure of comfort in conformity.

My experiences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health represent the intersectionality of our work. Public health doesn't belong in just one silo, one sphere, or one school. It is instead embedded in the fabric of our university, our community, and our society. Public health has a unique perspective to offer every industry. It functions in all corners of the world—from research and academia to industry and practice—and, from my experience, the individuals in the Michigan Public Health Class of 2018 really ensure that its presence is made known.

Our seven disciplines—Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, Health Behavior and Health Education, Health Management and Policy, Health Informatics, and Nutritional Sciences—will continue to overlap and interact in multifaceted layers and touchpoints for the rest of our careers.

Therefore, I thank you all, the Class of 2018, for what you have done for me. You held me up in the darkest of times, you fostered a collaborative and inclusive community, and you put in the extra effort to open your arms and alter the perspective of those who didn't understand the core components of our discipline.

I challenge you all to continue to take a deep look into the situations where people discourage you. Really assess them. Are you just going to remain hardened because someone told you no like that medical student told me? Or are you going to welcome the opportunity to challenge the system, break the norms, and improve lives?

Let's make an impact on the world. Let's show the world the Michigan Public Health difference. Go Blue!

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