When someone hears a student is a psychology major, they might assume that person wants to become a psychiatrist instead of an obstetrician or gynecologist. Shreya Tellur, however, has taken a learning path that helped her find an often unexplored connection between the two fields.
Tellur has always known she wanted to attend medical school. She enrolled at Clemson University as a biological sciences major, which she saw as a more traditional path to future study in neuroscience.
However, after a summer research experience and a few classes, she realized she was more interested in classes that focused on health and human behavior.
“Human behavior is a big part of medicine that people don’t really think about,” said Tellur. “Combining my psychology courses with my pre-med classes, I think, gave me knowledge about how to apply a behavior in the real world of medicine.”
Tellur started with the University’s EUREKA! program, which pairs a group of incoming, first-year Honors College students with a faculty mentor for 5 weeks to explore a specific topic during the summer before their first year on campus. Her team’s research project, which focused on using biomedical software to process clinical data that could help doctors develop more accurate treatment plans, blended health science and behavioral patterns.
That experience inspired Tellur to look for other opportunities to explore the social determinants of health care, leading her to psychology professor Robert Sinclair’s creative inquiry project that fall. That team researched gig workers and their well-being on the job.
Three years later, Tellur has since focused her Honors thesis research with Sinclair on how diversity in the workplace impacts nurses’ job attitudes and burnout and the potential impact a diversity-supportive workplace can have on health and well-being.
She and other members of Sinclair’s research team presented their results at an American Psychological Association conference in November.
Sinclair said he has been pleased to have Tellur as a research team member and that other professors are equally impressed by her focus and approach to her work.
“When she proposed her research idea to her committee, one of the committee members described her theorizing as among the best thesis proposals she had ever read,” said Sinclair.
I have been pleased to have Shreya as a member of my research team and wish her all the best in medical school!ROBERT SINCLAIR, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY
Tellur has also spent the past three years in a program called the MedEx Academy offered by Prisma Health, which helps young people explore health care careers. Last year, Tellur had the opportunity to job shadow different medical professionals, including family medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics and neurology.
One of her experiences was in Neuro-ICU. Although Tellur enjoyed shadowing the doctors, her visit helped her realize she wanted to provide a more relationship-focused approach to caring for her patients, which is difficult to achieve in an ICU environment.
Tellur had not considered an OB-GYN career until she shadowed an obstetrician during another visit.
“I was there when the obstetrician performed an ultrasound and announced to the parents they were pregnant,” said Tellur. “Being there in that moment showed me a very different side of medicine, and that connection drew me to the field.”
Sarah Knowles Barrett managed the MedEx Academy when Tellur started the program. Now, Barrett works as an Honors College adviser on campus. She said Shreya’s MedEx involvement demonstrated the engagement and reflectiveness the program is designed to invoke.
“Diving headfirst into new experiences or previously unconsidered career pathways demonstrates that Shreya is willing to grow and evolve,” said Barrett. “Shreya’s confidence and openness allowed her to immerse fully into the clinical experiences, simulations, and seminars offered by various medical professionals, cultivating a more informed view of a health care career.”
That openness and focus on building relationships have also grown through Tellur’s experiences in two scholar programs on campus, including the Thomas F. Chapman Scholars program, a three-year program that fosters leadership potential among a select group of students throughout their Clemson careers.
The program selects only one Chapman Leadership Scholar from Tellur’s College every year.
“I never thought I’d get into the program because they only choose 14 students every year, and I’m a big introvert, but it was one of those opportunities where I thought nothing would happen if I didn’t try,” said Tellur. “You’re with other students with different experiences and qualifications, which helped me build on my own leadership skills and qualities.”
Tellur is also a Dixon Global Policy Scholar, a program that brings a select group of Honors students from different majors together to discuss broader policy issues. She credits this program with helping her decide to focus her master’s degree on public health policy this fall before applying to medical school. Until then, she plans to work as a research assistant.
When asked what advice she may have for other Clemson students, Tellur says not to be afraid to reach out. “Although it seems overwhelming at first, the best thing I did was to ask questions and to cold-email professors about research opportunities. Those connections truly do carry on throughout your college experience and have really helped me.”
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