|Have you ever wondered what happened to your favorite CHP Peer Academic Advisor? You know, those student mentors who helped you assemble your four-year plan, planned the retreat, cooked burgers for you at the CHP bonfire, and generally provided a wealth of information and upperclassman wisdom on all topics related to the CHP?
Sheela Rao (’97) was a PAA in 1996-97 with Chris Komanapalli (’97) and Ginger Glayzer (’99). Like many CHP students, Rao had broad interests, and double majored in Biological Sciences and the Humanities Interdisciplinary major. She was a fan of coffee hour, went bouldering at the CHP retreat in Joshua Tree, had her favorite study space in a sunny nook of the (pre-renovation) Student Center, and enjoyed the Anteater Pub, which was at that time above the food court. What happened to her then? After UCI, Rao attended Harvard Medical School, and has returned to Southern California to practice at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she is an academic pediatrician.
Rao is a CHP alumna who has parlayed her diverse interests into a stimulating, multi-faceted career. She states that preparing for a career in medicine involved many skills she acquired through the CHP core courses, “I feel that the broad liberal arts exposure I have had in the CHP greatly prepared me for medical school and my diverse job description. I rely heavily on my previous writing experience from college courses in my academic pursuits.”
As an academic pediatrician, Rao sees patients in an outpatient pediatrics clinic, and mentors residents at the clinic and at Children’s Hospital. She also devotes some time to working with a psychologist in a special clinic devoted to addressing mental health and medical needs of children in foster care. In this work, she also thinks back to Social Sciences Core, stating “I am also grateful for the sociology perspective. As I shape new clinical research projects, I tend more towards qualitative research. I am grateful that CHP gave me a comfort zone in this area. Moreover, I also feel that I have a little more insight into the process of education. This awareness has really helped me to change my approaches to teaching residents and medical students.”
Rao studied abroad while at UCI, and further pursued her interest in international medicine in medical school by completing electives in Guatemala, India, and Peru. While she has had to place this ambition on the back-burner for now, she continues to be interested in social medicine and in perhaps practicing internationally in the future. Rao and her husband have three children and enjoy sharing natural wonders with them such as Sequoia and Griffith Park.