“I am nominating Khyathi because of her commitment to impactful research and service to address important needs of our worldwide and US population and our UIowa community.” -Whitney Zahnd, assistant professor
Hometown: Bangalore, India
Faculty mentor/advisor: Whitney Zahnd, PhD, assistant professor, and Kanika Arora, PhD, Department of Health Management and Policy, College of Public Health
What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date? PhD in health services and policy, 2025
Please describe your research: My research focuses on investigating how mental health policies and delivery modalities impact the utilization of mental health services, with a particular focus on depression, anxiety, and co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Currently, I examine the impact of telehealth policies and services on mental health service utilization and their resultant outcomes. I also study how this impact differs among individuals based on their demographic, geographic, and socioeconomic characteristics.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? Mental health is a substantial public health burden in our society. Moreover, minority, marginalized, and underserved populations face profound mental health problems. Despite effective prevention and treatment options to manage mental illnesses, the lack of mental health resources (workforce and treatment facilities) and affordable treatment remains a considerable challenge. This mental health treatment gap demands research that investigates mental health policies and service delivery to provide evidence-based recommendations that facilitate equitable access to mental health care in society.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started working as a graduate research assistant immediately after joining the program. The faculty I was working with at the College of Public Health was very supportive in helping me advance my research interests right from the beginning.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? I had the opportunity to be involved in collaborative research with different centers of research and researchers, which helped me develop my technical, analytical, and communication skills. Additionally, it provided me an opportunity to work with people from diverse backgrounds and look at research from different perspectives. The skills I am gaining through this experience are helping me successfully advance my research at the University of Iowa and preparing me with abilities to advance my career post-PhD.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to work in organizations that conduct mental health policy research and health policy research in general. I am also passionate about teaching, and as an alternate career interest, I am interested in exploring the opportunity to become a professor in health policy studies. No matter what career I choose to be in, I hope to put my best efforts into conducting meaningful health policy research and advocating for improving and protecting mental health in the community.
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