From Columbia Mailman Student to White House Fellow
Kamal Menghrajani, MD, MS ’23, wears many hats. She is an oncologist, co-founded multiple startups, and recently completed her MS in Biostatistics at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. She was also named a 2023-2024 White House Fellow, putting her in the ranks of Sanjay Gupta, Colin Powell, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and former New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi.
Founded in 1964, the White House Fellows program is one of the oldest and most distinguished post-graduate fellowships in the country, and it serves as a springboard for future public servants and leaders. Over the course of a year, Fellows interface with top-ranking government officials and work to solve pressing issues facing the American public. Menghrajani is working in the Office of Science Technology Policy, supporting President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative.
Menghrajani grew up in California and North Carolina and went to the University of Chapel Hill for her undergraduate degree and medical degrees. She got her first taste of public health work at Nourish International, where she worked on a poverty alleviation and sustainability project in Bolivia. During her residency at the University of Michigan, she collaborated with biostatisticians on a research project studying patients’ responses to bone marrow disease treatment.
After completing a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering, she decided to turbocharge her career as a cancer researcher with formal training at Columbia Mailman. The highlight, she says, was her experience with the Columbia Summer Research Institute. Last fall, after meeting Dave Chokshi, former New York City Health Commissioner and former White House Fellow, she decided to apply to the program to learn about leadership and public service. “It’s very special to be able to serve the American public in this way,” she says of the opportunity.
What will you be doing as a White House Fellow?
Menghrajani: The Fellowship has three components. One is getting to know the fellows, who come from a variety of backgrounds. Another component is learning about leadership, from former fellows and people from across the White House and federal government. The third component is hands-on experience working alongside others within the federal government to solve big problems and support the work of the Biden-Harris Administration. The people I work with in OSTP Health Outcomes and Biden Cancer Moonshot are dedicated public servants focused on improving public health. It’s a phenomenal place to work, and I’m really excited to spend the next year working alongside this team.
Tell me about the Biden Cancer Moonshot and what you’ll be doing there.
Menghrajani: The Biden Cancer Moonshot aims to prevent more than four million cancer deaths by 2047, and improve the experience of people who are touched by cancer. The Biden Cancer Moonshot is bringing together leaders and experts from across the federal government, the public sector, the private sector, patients, and advocacy groups to achieve these ambitious goals. I hope to provide a perspective informed by my background in public health and my experience as a practicing oncologist that will make a real difference in improving the lives of patients, families, and caregivers.
Are there any experiences that stand out from your time in D.C. so far?
Menghrajani: The Childhood Cancer Forum in September was really incredible. It brought together people from industry, academia, and advocates, as well as people who were childhood cancer survivors. It was a frank discussion of issues we’re facing, such as how to prevent more kids from getting cancer, how to help more kids get the treatments and cures they need, and how to help patients and families through this incredibly tough time in their lives. Bringing people together is a real strength of the Biden-Harris Administration, and I felt so privileged to be a part of this White House.