Riya Patel Interview

Riya Patel (@_riya.patel)

  • Founder of The Daily Dosage (@thedailydosage.20)

  • High School Student

  • Passionate about Medicine

Hi there! My name is Riya Patel. I am an Indian-American high school student from Austin, Texas. I am currently in the International Baccalaureate program, pursuing higher education in medicine. In my free time, I enjoy doing calligraphy, organizing, and writing. Welcome to my interview!

What is your job?

Currently, I am a high school senior! However, my dream career is to become a physician and work in a clinical setting. Right now, I am leaning towards becoming a pediatric oncologist or a geriatric physician! 

What was your STEM journey?

Throughout my childhood, I was surrounded by healthcare providers, whether they be dermatologists who diagnosed my Morphea, physical and speech therapists who helped my brother with his speech delay, or various physicians my grandparents visit monthly. Ever since then, I have been observing their interactions with their patients and the connections they form, which is something I'd love to do in the future.

When did you first realize you wanted to do STEM?

Enter seventh grade science class: long black tables were covered in exam table paper, making it look just like a doctor’s office. My teacher handed me a white doctor’s coat and assigned me a table. I scrolled through my research and observed the patient, taking detailed notes of every symptom. “Fatigue. Eye movements and hand gestures. Unexplained weight gain.” After a few minutes of contemplation, I came to a final diagnosis - Hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease. To confirm this diagnosis, I presented my debriefings to my teacher. She only anticipated me to diagnose the patient with Hyperthyroidism, but the second, Hashimoto’s Disease, was present as well. That day, my meticulousness shined through, combining with my passion for research, biology, and outreach to find a cure for the patient and a new spark of curiosity for me - STEM. 

Who were your role models growing up?

Throughout my childhood, I have been privileged to live in a multigenerational household consisting of my parents, my brother, and my three grandparents. Growing up, I drew my inspiration from my parents, as they have always tried to bridge the gap between seven people, all with different mindsets and habits, valuing tolerance, togetherness, and adaptability. My parents have nurtured me to explore every opportunity with an open-mind, allowing me to discover new interests and develop my passions. Instead of directing me somewhere particular, they gave me the freedom to explore various fields, to discover my passions, inspiring me to pursue a career in STEM. 

Did you ever want to do anything else?

Ever since I was in Pre-K, I had my mind set on becoming a doctor. Although I have explored various fields like business, aerospace, and coding, I always end up looking at them in terms of the medical field!

Have you ever had any major setbacks (in STEM or otherwise)?

One setback I can think of as a high school student wanting to go into medicine has to be with opportunities within the field itself. Due to HIPPA rules and age restrictions, it is very difficult to gain opportunities to shadow in the medical field. However, I have been fortunate enough to be able to shadow both general and pediatric dentists in my area! Although I couldn’t shadow practicing physicians in hospitals, I was still able to obtain first-hand experience and exposure to a healthcare environment, while stepping into the dentists’ shoes, interacting with and observing patients on a direct level!

What’s one thing you’d like to change about the STEM community?

If I could change anything about the STEM community, I would change the number of women working in the medical field. According to 2019 data, in the medical profession overall, male doctors still outnumber female doctors, 64 percent to 36 percent. Although we are seeing an increase  in female doctors over the years, there is still a lack of diversity in terms of gender, hindering future innovations and discoveries.

Is there a problem with sexism, racism, homophobia, and discrimination in general in the STEM community?

Yes. Although there has been progress to promote women in STEM fields, sexism is still a prevalent issue in these communities. Women are underrepresented in fields such as computer science, medicine, and engineering today.  Furthermore, many women in STEM face issues like imposter syndrome, gender discrimination, and implicit bias. In my opinion, the STEM community must work towards both gender equality and gender equity, educating young girls about various STEM topics to prepare them for their bright futures.

What’s your message for young teens wanting to do STEM?

Follow your heart, reach out, meet new people, and believe in yourself! If you can dream it, you can definitely achieve it! The STEM field has numerous opportunities for you to explore yourself - reach for the ones that captivate you and you will definitely find your passions! 

What is your favorite science joke?

No matter how popular they get, ANTIBIOTICS will never go VIRAL.

What is your most embarrassing moment in your life?

I haven’t really had a “most embarrassing” moment in my life, but I’ve often been told stories of my childhood that are quite funny. Once when I was three years old, my mother was doing something and I opened the fridge and grabbed a packet of food coloring. I ended up spilling it all over me, and I had green and blue spots on me all day!

What is your favourite food?

I like all different types of food, but over quarantine, I’ve started to love anything chocolate. Specifically, brownies or ice cream. However, I recently found out that I am mildly allergic to hazelnut, which means no Ferrero Rocher or Nutella for me!

What can be done to make STEM more diverse?

Adding more opportunities to motivate women in STEM! To make STEM more diverse, we must give young girls opportunities to learn about STEM and meet others like them. I believe that it is very important to be able to share your passions with your peers and have some sort of shared interest, which can spark through opportunities like after school clubs and mentorship programs!

How has your identity impacted your career in STEM?

Personally, my identity has not impacted my career in STEM, but I know that for a lot of women in STEM careers face biases about their abilities and talents. I hope to empower the next generation of women to join STEM fields, allowing me to help end some of these biases.

huge thank you to Riya for joining us today! Be sure to subscribe to receive more STEM-related content coming to your inbox.

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Samhita Vinay