40 under 40 class of 2019Springfield , Illinois
Founding Chair, Department of Population Science and PolicySouthern Illinois University School of Medicine
BOLD SOLUTION: Over the past several years, Sameer has been responsible for building and creating SIU SOM’s population science and policy infrastructure.
Five Questions for Sameer
1. What are the greatest challenges you face in your public health work or area of focus?
The greatest challenge we face in public health is motivating government, philanthropy, and the public to push innovation in smaller cities and rural communities. People, power, and money are concentrated in our urban metropolises, and it is difficult to do research, tell the stories, and create the types of policies that focus on these non-urban centers. This work is hard, but it has introduced me, a native Chicagoan, to the power, innovation, beauty, and compassion of rural Illinois and America. I am fortunate to be able to introduce and connect others to this unique and special rural experience.
2. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?
My inspiration to embark on a career in public health was first cultivated in college by a professor of political science named Ken Janda. I knew I was going to be a physician, and in the midst of my courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy, I decided to take some classes to better my understanding of political thought and reasoning. I would often debate political theory with my professors and classmates, and one day, Professor Janda found me with a request. “Mr. Vohra,” he said, “I hope you use your power and influence as a physician to make an impact on the laws and injustices that make people sick. You care too much not to make a difference.
3. Describe yourself in three words.
Hopeful. Determined. Caring.
4. What would success in public health look like to you?
A society that invests in the systematic structures, programs, and procedures that acknowledge our past injustices, focuses on prevention rather than treatment, and collectively comes together to make all of our futures brighter.
5. What is one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on in public health?
Our team at Southern Illinois University Medical School was the lead organizer of the first Illinois Rural Health Summit in nearly 15 years. It convened 50 of the state’s top rural health experts across public health, government, healthcare, philanthropy and academia to begin building blueprints on social and policy issues to improve the health of rural Illinois. The summit and its subsequent reports and recommendations have the potential to restructure how Illinois approaches rural health and works to solve inequalities. We’re excited for this project and for the future of rural health in Illinois.