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Kushal Kadakia PPS’19 adds the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award to his list of honors. The award is given annually by the Sanford School of Public Policy to a graduating senior for highest academic achievement in public policy.

For his outstanding research and academic accomplishments, Kadakia also has been named a Rhodes Scholar, Truman Scholar and Duke Faculty Scholar. In addition, he is a winner of the Forever Duke Leadership Award and will serve as a Degree Marshall at the Duke commencement ceremony.

As a pre-med student majoring in biology and public policy, with a minor in public health, Kadakia is preparing for a career in medicine and public policy. That dual perspective has informed his time at Duke. Kadakia says he is most proud of leading a successful campaign to make Duke a smoke-free campus.

“The initiative was my opportunity to translate Sanford's mission of ‘outrageous ambition’ into tackling public policy problems in my own community, and I hope to always channel that ethos in my career in public service,” he said.

Wide-ranging Research

Kadakia has been involved with research through four different projects—one in health policy, one in innovation policy, one in a cardiology laboratory and one in a radiation oncology laboratory.

For a Bass Connections research project, Kadakia and other team members drew on Duke’s expertise in law, public policy, medicine, nursing and business to craft a Medicaid reform proposal that fits the constraints and demands of North Carolina politics. In April 2017, the team submitted its report to North Carolina policymakers and citizens and hosted a presentation and discussion in Raleigh.

“Collectively, Bass Connections has been the centerpiece of my Duke experience – providing a common thread to weave together my scientific training and my policy interests into an impact-oriented research experience that is now the foundation for my future career,” Kadakia said.

Barak Richman, a faculty member who worked closely with Kadakia on the Bass Connections project, said, “I am still humbled, and a bit incredulous, at how much policy knowledge and intellectual authority Kushal exhibits—and how much respect he commands—before even completing his bachelor’s degree.”

Kadakia also completed a public policy honors thesis focusing on how using an ‘accountable care’ health care framework could repurpose international innovations to improve the U.S. health care system.

“Sanford taught me how to translate my ideas into impact—from Bass Connections to health policy research,” Kadakia said. “With my Sanford education, I will always orient my scholarship in service to society.”

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Other Duke Activities

His service also includes working as Duke Student Government vice president and as chair of the Duke Honor Council. He was a member of the Duke Presidential Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility and the Duke Undergraduate Conduct Board, and was a three-time student representative to the Duke University Board of Trustees.

Kadakia is committed to pursuing research and policy to make health care access more equitable. Following graduation, he will attend Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before returning to the U.S. to pursue his M.D. at Harvard, and then a career in health policy.