2021 Alumni Awards
Kunal Parikh ’12 — William Oxley Thompson Award
What is the William Oxley Thompson Award?
Awarded to young alumni who have demonstrated distinctive achievement in a career, civic involvement or both. Nominees must be 35 years or younger.
Alleviating the suffering of others
Kunal Parikh’s achievements since graduating from Ohio State in 2012 have been remarkable. He is a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, founder of the Global Institute for Vision Equity and co-founder of the Social Innovation Lab in Baltimore. An inventor, he has 10 patents issued or pending.
In all pursuits, Parikh, 31, aims to create technologies and companies that improve the quality of life for people and to enable equity in health care.
What is the source of your motivation to help others?
I was often sick or injured when I was young, which emphasized the importance of health. And whenever our family was able, we would visit India, which is where I really learned what it meant to not have much. By experiencing and observing suffering, I was motivated to alleviate the suffering of others. Today, I’m driven by a desire for all living beings to be happy, and a sense of gratitude that I can spend my time being of service to others.
How can we achieve equity in health care?
Health equity implies that each individual — regardless of socioeconomic status, race, location, etc. — has the opportunity to be healthy. An elderly person in rural India is going to face a very different battle to have access to health care than my mother in Columbus. We need a deep understanding of the barriers to health care for people around the world and cohesive efforts to implement tailored solutions to overcome these barriers.
What keeps you up at night?
There’s an urgent need to enable access to health care, to improve quality, and to address other challenges like poverty alleviation and access to education. I’m constantly thinking about how we can allocate more resources and talented people to work on solutions, and how we can accelerate the development and deployment of those solutions.
What is an interesting fact most people don’t know about you?
As part of a spiritual practice related to my faith, Jainism, I once climbed up and down a mountain in India seven times over two days without food or water. It has been my most difficult and worthwhile achievement, as I came to many fundamental realizations about how I want to live my life and what I’m prioritizing.