Suraj Shankar is a sophomore pre-med at the University of Kansas. He heard about Shot@Life from a fellow Champion while on a mobile clinic trip in Moshi, Tanzania. He is a strong believer in global access to medicine and vaccination and found Shot@life to be the perfect opportunity to get involved with the two ideas. He attended the 2016 Shot@Life Champion Summit in Washington, D.C and had a great experience. He found that getting to interact with other driven champions and advocate directly to our legislature very rewarding. After the Summit, he came back to his university and recruited a group of students who were also passionate about global medicine and are eager to advocate!
How do you balance being a student with being a Champion?
It is not too difficult! I keep up with advocacy over the weekends or whenever a special Shot@Life event is going on (like World Immunization Week). Thanks to all the amazing resources on the community website, this is made even easier. The only time it really interfered with school was during the Summit whenI had to take three days off, but it was totally worth it!
Can you talk a bit more about the work you’ve done with Shot@Life at the University of Kansas?
I have told many of my peers about the Shot@Life campaign and the importance of global immunization. Additionally, I gave a presentation on Shot@Life to my medical fraternity, Phi Delta Epsilon, and about 15 people ended up going through the training! I hope to get a group of students to go down to next year’s Summit.
What is your favorite memory with Shot@Life?
The banquet during the Summit was a ton of fun. Getting to unwind after a long day and socialize with all the other awesome Champions was pretty neat. Moreover, the speakers at the banquet were amazing and really gave me a look into how passionate and driven the Shot@Life campaign is about global vaccination. It inspired me to spread the word and do as much as I can!
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment with the campaign?
Keeping up the same enthusiasm throughout all the meetings during hill day was quite the accomplishment. Despite being exhausted from trekking around Capitol Hill, whenever I started talking to a congressional office about our cause, my passion for global vaccination came over me!
What do you want people to know about being a Champion?
I want people to know that you really can make a difference through advocacy. The “asks” that Shot@Life has may seem lofty at first, but when all of us work together to advocate and get our message out there, our goals become very attainable! Even if you aren’t a person that is generally involved in politics, Shot@Life really helps you reach out to your representatives and inform them about our cause. You should not underestimate the influence you have!
Can you talk about the work you do outside of the campaign?
I am on the executive board of my medical fraternity. Through this, I am able to really help out our surrounding community with events we take part in and also help guide my pre-med peers since the path can get quite difficult! Additionally, I am apart of a state senate campaign for a candidate that believes in expanding health care access to as many people as possible. Also, I plan on volunteering for hospice care over the summer!
As a pre-med student, what is your vision for the future of vaccinations?
I have a vision that nobody will have to needlessly die from a vaccine-preventable disease. The amazing people in the field of medicine are able to produce miracle vaccines! Unfortunately, that is only half the equation. These vaccines are only useful if everyone has access to them, otherwise the diseases will continue to take lives. This is where Shot@Life comes in! Through our advocacy, we can make sure that everyone has access to these wonderful vaccines.