From the affluence of Boulder to the gritty small towns of the eastern plains, Upasana “Bela” Mohapatra has a way of finding the needy in a community.
"A huge part of why I wanted to go into medicine was to help people who were most vulnerable,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in health care for the underserved and in health disparities.”
Mohapatra was young when she started helping people. While attending Monarch High School in Boulder, she volunteered as a tutor at a halfway house for girls.
While at CU Boulder, she volunteered at a student health clinic, where she taught sex education, including counseling for HIV testing. That kind of work might prove intimidating for many young people, but Mohapatra felt comfortable. “I’m really passionate about it even now, in terms of empowering people to overcome taboos around sex. And I really loved taking care of women.
“I like the one on one, being able to work directly with people. It was cool to see the amount of trust they showed. It’s a huge part of why I’m attracted to clinical.”
A member of the school’s urban track, Mohapatra, 25, decided on family medicine as her specialty when she did a rotation on the eastern plains.
“I had incredible mentors there,” she says. “One mentor in particular (in Fort Morgan) did a lot of women’s health. She could deliver a baby, take care of the baby and the whole family, too. In a rural setting, you have those kind of relationships. That’s kind of what did it for me. It brought everything together.”
And family medicine fit her personality because, she says with a smile and a shrug, “I liked every rotation.”
Clinical and volunteer work reassured her that underserved communities can be found no matter where she practices. For example, in Fort Morgan she had the opportunity to work with refugee populations.
“There’s a huge amount of diversity in small towns,” she says.
On Match Day, Mohapatra learned she will spend her residency years in Tacoma, Wash., but that’s only half of the week’s big news. On Saturday, she’ll marry fellow medical student Stephen Wills, with whom she couple matched in family medicine. Both are 2013-14 inductees into the Gold Humanism Honor Society.
The timing of the wedding was coincidental.
"We picked the day for our families’ schedules. Later we found out it was the day after Match Day, but we figured what the heck. At least we’ll be able to say where we’re going.”