Passionate, focused and driven that’s who she is and she can’t help it. Her name is Anindita Dasgupta. I met Anindita through a mutual friend who specifically thought she would be a great feature for the blog. During my first conversation with her, I immediately saw why. We commenced an insightful and inspiring conversation which like any other interview began with me asking….
Who is Anindita?
[Pauses] She Says, “I Struggle with that question especially at this stage in my life… I’m first and foremost Indian American, a daughter, a sister and a wife. Professionally, I’m a public health researcher & advocate. I have been in public health for a decade.” Anindita was born into a family where she is the youngest of three children. She has an older brother and an older sister. Her family moved to America by way of her father coming over to finish his Ph.D. in Miami, Florida where they had her older sister and lived for five years. They moved to Pennsylvania due to her father’s job and it was in Pennsylvania the family welcomed Anindita. When she was two, her family moved to Maine and lived there until she was sixteen. Growing up in Maine as an Indian-American, she recalls the lack of diversity. She says, “There was only one other Indian family and one black boy who was adopted by caucasian parents.” Her siblings completed high school in Maine and by the time Anindita was sixteen, the family decided to move to New York. The Move to New York happened because her parents worries that her education was going to suffer due to the lack of opportunities and diversity in Maine. They did everything to ensure their children understood and appreciated both the American and Indian cultures. They did not want their children to be the stereotype “ABCD” which stands for American Born Confused Desi. As life would lead, Anindita met her husband a couple of weeks after moving to New York. They connected due to their Indian heritage even though they spoke different languages and were from different parts of India. Anindita’s family is Bengali, and comes from Kolkata, West Bengal – a part of India known to produce scholars and artists, while her husband is Gujarati (from the state of Gujurat), which is a part of India known to produce business tycoons, and some of the country’s best innovations. They connected over the same-shared values and wanting to maintain their Indian heritage. Anindita talks about a level of comfort she shared with her husband due to their shared ethnicity, even though their distinct cultures growing up were very different. She says, “At the core of who we are, my husband and I share the same values but based on where we are from, we couldn’t be more different.”
As a child, she remembers her mother being very involved in her interests. She was a creative child who had a lot of interests. “For every interest I had, my mother would always go out and get me materials to bring it to life. She would sit with me and create them. I loved The Mary Tyler Moore show growing up and my mother knew how much I loved it and would always watch it with me…At some point, [laughs] I was sure I wanted to be an artist and I can’t draw at all but my mum went out and got me art materials and sat with me as I tried to draw or create things. She even enrolled me in art classes.” For Anindita, these were the moments that shaped her as a child because even then she understood the message that there was nothing she wanted to do that she couldn’t do.
After completing high school, she stayed on the east coast and attended Mount Holyoke College – a women’s liberal arts school in Western Massachusetts. She proceeded to Boston University for her Master’s in Public Health and she completed her education at University of California San Diego where she acquired a Ph.D. also in Public Health. Throughout her career, she has been aware of her privilege of having people around her to cheer her on and steer her in the right direction. When speaking about mentors Anindita says, “I always had strong mentors and strong family roots which always reminded me of what’s important.” In high school she had teachers that were invested in her success and in college, she had an advisor and a professor who were both very invested in her. In grad school, Anindita had an advisor who she worked with for seven years and was the reason she chose to attend UCSD to be able to work with her. Her mentor was an Indian American woman who ‘till this day is still invested in her progress.
When I ask Anindita what her biggest challenge has been, she says, “My biggest challenge is managing the ability to say no. As a woman and a minority woman, I feel that I need to take advantage of every opportunity laid at my feet. I, Like many other women of color often fear the cost of saying “no.” She continues, “I have always had great people around me cheering me on and ensuring I am doing what needs to be done and as I have developed my career, I feel a great need to help others that I often find myself taking on way more than I can handle.” Anindita’s research focuses on gender inequities of health among minority and marginalized populations. She has tried to get her work published and has been shut down. She believes this is, in part, because she studies topics that the scientific community, and society generally, does not value. She says, “I do research that involves reproductive health of African American and Latino women. Its just not something society cares about. It’s not a sexy topic.” At the point she’s in with her career, as a postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University, she’s able to analyze and produce scientific literature documenting the gendered health issues of marginalized populations of women however, she hopes to pursue faculty positions in an effort to be a stronger advocate for minority women.
What’s next for Anindita? She wants to become a stronger advocate for minority women on health matters addressing the injustices that lead to overrepresentation of negative health outcomes we face as minority women. She hopes her research can be used to inform policy decisions on a national level in an effort to reduce poor health concerns such as high rates of HIV/STI among vulnerable groups of women, such as African American women engaged in the criminal justice system. She wants to make a positive impact on the health of marginalized women, and public health research advocacy is her chosen path for that.
Talking to Anindita, a few things stood out to me. The power of great mentors, the power of parental love and believing in a child and finally purpose. When she speaks about women’s health and the issues we face, the passion cannot be missed. While what she speaks of affects a great number of minority women, because the greater public has not addressed it, even we forget to ask the hard questions and find out what we need to concerning our health. Anindita is passionate, determined and driven and as we grow in numbers, and more women like her rise, changes will be made but as we all know, CHANGE STARTS WITH YOU.
I hope you enjoyed this rant about Anindita Dasgupta.