In the year turning so many people upside down, Megan Sai Eragaparabu the Great had plenty of time to reflect on what the epidemic had caused with her notions of space between people.

“The concept of space is great for me,” said Robertson, a Greensboro resident and researcher. “In all of my research projects and civic engagement, I have tried to bridge the gap between the people I work with and myself. I try to go where they are and understand their experiences better.

“The contrast with COVID couldn’t be more pronounced. COVID forced us to expand this space or cut communication altogether. I’ve spent a lot of time quarantined thinking about what fills the extra void between us.”

Filling this void will be one of the topics of talks Iragavarapu will present as the 2021 student speaker at the May 2nd Undergraduate Opening Ceremony. The University Authority chose a speech from a large number of students representing the Student Council.

Iragavarabu said the speech at the opening ceremony was not on the prince’s list at the start of the year. But COVID has changed that, too. Self-proclaimed Iragafarapu said she is used to being with friends and sharing her thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

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Iragavarapu, who hasn’t been able to do so much during the pandemic, has said he has chosen to reach others in a broader, more exotic context.

“I would not apply to speak without COVID,” she said. I did not expect to be elected. I am grateful and humble that something I said in the letter resonated with the committee and I hope that I will be selected in my class. “

Iragafarapu said she understands the importance of the student’s entry speech for the 2021 semester. “Suffice to say, it’s a big task. In a difficult year, I am worried that I have a responsibility to respect everyone’s experience.”

Part of the conversation will recall lessons from her experiences at Duke, from the projects she has implemented in Fiji and Buenos Aires to the Bass Connections project here in Durham, which explored racial and class differences in local healthcare.

This interest in connectedness also spurred her to volunteer at the Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, where she facilitated access to healthcare for low-income people looking to lose weight and reduce health risks such as diabetes.

Her interaction with Lincoln patients has taught her a lot about the historical obsessions that pose a major obstacle to accessing health care among black Americans and other marginalized groups. She taught her how to reduce the distance between patients and herself by learning about their lives.

I learned how to use my ears and mouth in the 2: 1 ratio given to me. I learned how to be a good listener, and respect life stories to better understand why people are exposed to certain health risks. They have the drive to do this and you should respect that.

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COVID stopped all of this work and it broke my heart. These patients live 10 minutes away from me, but during a pandemic there was no way to visit them with them. All participants are at risk of contracting COVID. I kept my heart for a long time, but I had to give up the people and the project that I invested so much in. “

She is not the only one who has this kind of honest experience with COVID and she has said that one of her messages would be to provide all students with “the personality we know now because of this experience.”

After starting Iragavarab, he will move to Boston to work in the Center for Vascular Malformations in Harvard University’s Basic Pediatrics Program. She said she considers it a growth year that provides valuable experience before applying to medical school.

She thanked her family, friends, mentors, and many other people for providing the Duke experience that dominated her speech, and was eager to see the reactions of her classmates.

“When I talk to people, I work hard to respond to their facial expressions and nonverbal signals. Now I imagine looking at more than a thousand of my colleagues wearing masks and wondering how do I know if they are interacting? In their eyes and hopefully I can pick up something!”