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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo
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Jaya Panicker: health, community and faith at TU

A peek at life in the health department

Through her major in human physiology and preventative medicine (HPPM), senior Jaya Panicker has grown in her understanding and appreciation of the health sciences and how she can utilize a Christian perspective in her career.

Panicker came to Taylor in 2020 with a pre-existing love for science and hopes to work in the healthcare field. 

Despite originally deciding to pursue a biology major, she changed this decision toward the end of her freshman year.

“I didn’t even realize human physiology was an option and had never even heard of preventative medicine as a major,” Panicker said. “Upperclassmen on my wing in this major encouraged me to look into it further, and Dr. Hayes played a big part in my decision to switch over to the HPPM major.”

As with most STEM majors, the coursework can be challenging — Panicker has definitely experienced this.

However, she has noticed that through taking challenging classes comes growth and a stronger sense of preparedness. 

“It’s no secret that majors in this field are stereotypically very difficult and time-consuming, but I find them so rewarding,” Panicker said. “One of the most difficult things is how content-heavy these majors are, and it definitely does take a lot of your time to truly apply yourself in the learning process.”

Because of the difficulty level of many of these classes, Panicker has bonded with many classmates as they work through content together and participate in discussions.

She values the community found within her department and in classes.

“Some of my most treasured friends come from my major and department, and I am so grateful for that,” Panicker said. “We bond over study dates, class, major events and all around just in our passions and goals.”

Through the Kinesiology Department, there are several opportunities to get involved outside of classes.

One opportunity Panicker has taken advantage of is the Invitation Clinic, a Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Clinic located across the street from Taylor’s campus.

“There I’ve had the opportunity to work one on one with patients and teach them a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approved curriculum that focuses on nutrition, sleep, physical activity and stress management,” Panicker said.

At the clinic, she also facilitates exercise for patients in the community with the aim of helping them achieve their health goals.

She spent the summer of 2022 in Upland working at the Invitation Clinic and in cardiac rehabilitation at Taylor and IU Health Blackford. 

“(That summer), I got to learn more about cardiology as I monitored exercise in patients coming off cardiac episodes,” Panicker said.

Last spring, Panicker joined the board of Alpha Pi Iota — an organization of Taylor students seeking to join and improve the healthcare world.

“We organize informational and engaging activities related to the healthcare field, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to serve alongside some of my classmates who double as friends,” Panicker said.

Each of these experiences has helped reveal to Panicker the importance of holistic health — viewing each patient as a whole person. She has appreciated her department’s focus on holistic health and has gained significant understanding through it.

Through various classes, Panicker has been able to learn the details of the body’s functions, which have shown her the incredible creativity of God.

“It’s fascinating learning the mechanisms of our bodies even down to the chemical level, and it truly leaves me in a state of awe at how precise God is, and he doesn’t miss a single detail,” Panicker said.

The HPPM major has ultimately expanded Panicker’s perspective on both healthcare and God’s creation.

As a senior, she feels excited and ready to use the skills and knowledge learned at Taylor in the near future as she aims to become a physician’s assistant (PA). Post-graduation, her plan is to work in the healthcare field for a year and begin PA school the following summer.

“I feel very prepared for my future career, way more than I expected. I’ve learned so many functional skills through my major like how to take blood pressure, the detailed anatomy of a cat (yes, really) and various other technical skills that will give me the knowledge I need to succeed in healthcare,” Panicker said. “On the other hand, I’m also leaving Taylor with a better understanding of how my study of science strengthens my faith in the Lord.”