“...an unmitigated desire to make the world a little brighter, kinder, and more equitable. The mindset came from what I saw at Watkinson."
Ramya Chunduri '14
Ramya Chunduri ’14 is currently a MSc student at Harvard Medical School in Media, Medicine, and Health and also a psychotherapist at Cerebral Medical Group. Graduating from Indiana University in 2019, and then getting her MSSW in Advanced Clinical Practice (Health, Mental Health & Disabilities) from Columbia University, Ramya was inspired by grandfathers who struggled deeply due to structural inequities, but were the epitome of self-made. “First hand, I saw the impacts that education can have on life trajectory and even the trajectories of future generations to come; my brother (Watkinson ’16) and I are prime examples.”
From her time as a student at Watkinson, Ramya gained a mindset that she still has today, “…an unmitigated desire to make the world a little brighter, kinder, and more equitable. The mindset came from what I saw at Watkinson. My classmates, teachers, and the staff at the time genuinely wanted to — and believed they could — shape the world. They modeled that there was enough space for all of us to engage in meaningful actions and that’s still true today. Collaboration instead of competition. Empathy rather than sympathy. At Watkinson, a few girls and I founded the Women’s Empowerment group/club which stood as a brave place for me to explore my passions, learn how to lead, and provide mentorship. Those takeaways still stand: we deserve a seat at the table, and can keep adding chairs. There’s enough space for us all.”
A speaker in Watkinson’s virtual alumni panel last winter, Ramya stated awareness of mental health issues is more common now. “What I appreciate deeply is this generation’s boldness to ask questions, discuss problems, and find solutions. That’s where I think we can always start: curiosity, humility (choosing listening vs. talking first), and exposure (moving past talking to like-minded people, gaining different perspectives).
Ramya’s reasons for being drawn to social work are profound. “The concepts of bravery, neuroplasticity, and the expectations of “resilience” intrigue me especially because each person is different regardless of similarities in experiences. What I love most about the field and my specializations (terminal/chronic illness, grief and bereavement) isis the privilege I have to bear witness not only to pain and suffering, but also to vulnerability, brilliance, and the immaculate power each human being holds.”
Listening to Ramya, she conveys both wisdom and prescience about the future of mental healthcare. “I foresee mental healthcare changing quite a bit. In fact, it already is. The utilization of technology, famous chief impact officers, and social media is showing us the potential levels of scalability. With rapid growth and the reduction of stigmatizing behavior such as shaming, access to quality and affordable mental health care has become an even greater challenge. While continuing these discussions is important to me, my primary goal is more of a day to dayday-to-day benchmark for myself. Am I being authentic or diplomatic? Am I showing up for people honestly? What type of clients am I taking on? Am I operating from a culturally humble framework?”
Ramya recognizes that just like the field, her career is a work in progress. She believes it’s important to always remember that change can start with a single person. That person turns into a few friends and family, then a town, country, and bigger collaborations than imaginable. Small, consistent steps are required for sustainable long-term growth and change.