Sights set on pediatrics
It was a high school internship with Duke Center for Human Genetics that drove Keerthana Velappan toward a career in pediatrics. Working with children and their families as they tried to discern what caused their ailments or disabilities, she was reminded of something familiar.
Born in India, Velappan was discovered to have a hearing impairment when she entered first grade in the U.S. She well remembers the regular visits with audiologists and other specialists as they tried to identify a cause and course of treatment for her disability. But she’s come a long way since that official diagnosis.
“It started that my life revolved around my hearing loss,” Velappan said. “It wasn’t a bad thing but everyone was aware of it. Now, no one has to know unless I tell them.”
Velappan, 17, of Cary will be one of 19 incoming freshmen who enters ECU this August as EC Scholars – the most prestigious academic scholarship program the university offers.
She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in child life before continuing on to medical school. The undergraduate program trains students to work with seriously ill and hospitalized children and adolescents.
“Being an EC Scholar means that I can focus on my academics and branch out of my comfort zone by joining various clubs and trying new activities, all without having to worry about financial hardships,” she said.
Velappan said she “fell in love with the campus and the people” at ECU while attending the Honors College Preview Day earlier this year.
“I look forward to being around equally hard-working and motivated peers, and I'm particularly excited about the study abroad options,” Velappan said.
She said she is considering Switzerland for a program with the World Health Organization, but might also returning to India for study abroad to experience her home country in a new way.
Velappan attended Panther Creek High School in Cary and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham. In Durham, she served as a student ambassador, committee member for the Student Government and one of only six seniors selected for the Honor Council for disciplinary hearings. She was co-president and tutor of the Emily K Tutoring Club, which provided help for 4th and 5th graders, and supported fundraising efforts for the Association for India’s Development, which funds village educational centers.
Velappan participates in Indian classical dance. She is fluent in English, Tamil (South Indian), Spanish and American Sign Language.
She is the daughter of Uma Ramanathan and Velappan Velappan.
-- Steve Tuttle and Kathryn Kennedy