ANANT NAIK: DRIVEN BY QUESTIONS TO LEAVE BEHIND AN IMPACT
With its high-tech gadgets and life saving innovations, often overlooked in the medical profession is the humble cornerstone of communication. In the patient journey, from getting sick to getting treatment, communication—in all its forms—is the string that connects the story. While communication may not be on the forefront of most people’s minds, Anant Naik has deliberately made effective communication an integral part of his life. Communication has been the secret weapon that’s powered Anant toward becoming a truly disruptive force in the communities he’s been a part of.
Anant began to understand the power of words at a young age when he learned English after immigrating to the United States. Growing up in Minnesota, he was part of the Speech & Debate team in high school and wrote for the Minnesota Daily during his undergraduate years studying biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Anant chose to pursue biomedical engineering because of the emphasis placed on STEM in education by his family, particularly his software engineer father. And, because Anant was excited to create something new and exciting to leave his own legacy. During his undergraduate career, Anant became involved in Engineers Without Borders, a student organization which allowed him to use his engineering skills to help others. Being an immigrant and having been born in a resource-scarce environment, Anant says he was “naturally drawn to questions of accessibility.” Searching for answers in Engineering Without Borders led him to trips to Bolivia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guatemala. The most transformative trip for Anant, though, was to Bolivia, in which his team was tasked with figuring out how to transport water from a stream seven kilometers away to a small, rural village, and store it in tanks for easy access for the citizens.
Anant’s role in this project was researching the idea of ethereal sustainability—simplifying a complex engineering process in a way that makes it accessible to the common person. Anant reflected that his key takeaway from the experience wasn’t the engineering he learned, but the impact that the human interactions had on him and the realization that the most important part of the process was talking directly with the people who would be affected by the solution. In his continuous efforts throughout college to implement sustainable engineering solutions to help others, Anant also championed the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, an effort to raise funds to help Haitian locals affected by the tropical storm in 2010. Through his genuine desire to make a meaningful impact and his relentless pursuit of new projects and initiatives, Anant diligently combines engineering and technology with human connection to make the world a better place. The theme of simplifying science for the understanding of the layperson has been common throughout his undergraduate experiences. Anant credits his time writing for the Minnesota Daily in equipping him with the skills and experience he would need as a future physician to educate patients on medicine and research and creating a “contextual language between the patient and the scientist.” This is Anant’s way of answering the questions of accessibility that have always been gnawing at the back of his mind.
Another example of the impact he’s made is the research he participated in during his undergraduate career. Because his emphasis was on neural engineering, one of the research projects Anant participated in was to study episodic ataxia, a disorder characterized by sporadic bouts of discoordination. For this project, he worked with researchers to understand the circuitry of the brain and the mis-wiring that leads to the disorder. However, the research that had the most influence on Anant was when he was researching alcohol addiction at the Mayo Clinic. Anant says that being able to talk to the patients firsthand and understand their perspectives and journeys is one of the reasons he was drawn to medicine as a career option. Now, being in medical school, Anant plans to pursue a career in neurosurgery. When asked what kind of physician he wants to be, Anant matter-of-factly exclaims “a physician-scientist,” someone who is continuously learning from direct interactions with patients.
The path to becoming a physician-scientist
To accomplish this and make the most of his time at Carle Illinois, Anant is pursuing a Ph.D. in conjunction with his medical degree and has shown strong interest and excitement for the plethora of research opportunities available at the university. He says, “A strong integration of research and medical practice will enable me to put the patient first because the patient is the most important thing.” Anant is looking forward to working with the incredible teachers and mentors at Carle Illinois to further his research interests. One of Anant’s biggest motivators is the opportunity to leave behind an impact, and all his efforts in medical school, research, and extracurriculars are already making marks on his legacy of meaningful change. There is no doubt that with his intense passion and kind-hearted nature, teamed with the resources offered at Carle Illinois, Anant will make an impact on countless lives as physician, researcher, and world citizen.
“A strong integration of research and medical practice will enable me to put the patient first because the patient is the most important thing.”