Fusion. This is the word that comes to mind when one thinks of Shiv Nadkarni (C ’19).
Speaking with Shiv is like a roller coaster ride. There are so many twists and turns it is hard to believe one human can have so many passions that are seemingly divergent, yet Shiv manages to merge them and work them in harmony. One of the many ways he does this is through his engagement with the American Autism Association.
Shiv has had a passion for medicine and a love for the performing arts—specifically dance, singing, and theatre—since he was a young child. He also loves working with kids and actively pursues community service.
“After a long time of doing performing arts and science alongside each other I was like, ‘How can I tailor my academic trajectory to match that?’,” Shiv says.
Shiv is pre–med, majoring in BBB and working as a research assistant at Penn Med. He is also pursuing a minor in theater and is involved in Counterparts a cappella, starred in Penn Players' show Heathers, and is a member of Osiris Senior Society. His passions for science and art are two paths that would seemingly not intersect.
He has also been dancing since he was six years old. Shiv speaks casually about his love of dance, but to call dance his hobby would be far too cavalier. Through years of rigorous instruction, Shiv obtained his bachelor’s degree in Indian Classical Dance known as Kathak.
In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in Kathak, Shiv was invited to perform at the Parliament of World Religions showcase in Toronto this November in front of world leaders in activism, environmentalism, mental health advocacy, and spirituality, from all different religions.
“It was really cool to be a part of that in a place that’s not the US and see all these world leaders of different religions coming together under the same message of peace and love in this time,” Shiv says.
Spreading “peace and love” has been fundamental to Shiv’s upbringing, specifically his relationship with Hinduism.
“My dad is very spiritual about things. He doesn’t like to follow religion blindly for what it is, because I think it’s easy to get lost in the rituals. He always tied those things to the greater message of kindness and what we leave,” Shiv says. “I think it’s always important to bring religion back to what it is for you—that peace of mind but also what you impart to other people. So I think he was important in teaching me that.”
Shiv’s parents were very central in cultivating his passions and life trajectory. Both of his parents were interested in medicine. His mother has her own pediatric practice, which largely influenced Shiv's love of children and medicine. He followed that passion to the American Autism Association this summer, where he worked as a Community Outreach Intern, focusing on medical journalism.
One of his favorite pieces he wrote was about restaurants that hosted an “inclusive night” for families living with autism.
“It was hard to find restaurants that would be inclusive and have an environment that’s conducive, so that their family isn’t stared at when their kid acts up or throws a tantrum,” Shiv says. “So I think just opening it up to those families and having them all be aware of what’s happening allowed the families to have a night to relax and go out, which they might not have the opportunity to do.”
Shiv’s other favorite part of his internship was running their Ballet for All Kids program, a five–week program in which he alongside other instructors taught seven kids with autism how to learn introductory ballet. Shiv says he loved seeing the kids progress throughout the program. He recalls that at the beginning many of the kids were “hyperactive” and “distracted from the teacher,” but they improved so much to the point where they were able to perform something for their parents at the end of the program.
Shiv also explained his interest in narrative medicine, a burgeoning field that focuses more on patients’ stories and how that influences their care.
“This past year I sat down and had to think about what all of it means because I’ve always been interested in one vein which is performing arts and one vein which is medicine and science, and then looked for that intersection,” Shiv says. “I think narrative medicine, for example, is a place where storytelling and the narrative of a patient and their experience with whatever artistic outlet they have, you bring that into the illness narrative and help inform their treatment because of that.”
Shiv says that in today’s social and political climate, he believes narrative medicine is a necessary step in the right direction.
“It’s putting more focus on the story of a person and approaching medicine from a more humanistic angle, which is really interesting to me, because I think in the modern climate we’ve lost sight of the patients and patients’ stories and who they are,” Shiv says. “Now it’s like ‘Oh we need to return to what it’s actually supposed to be, which is working with the patient for what they think is the best course of action as well as informing it with medical knowledge.’”
Next year Shiv will be working in Boston at ClearView Healthcare Partners, a healthcare consulting company, but he hopes to apply to medical school in the following year and potentially some Master’s programs in narrative medicine.
“It’s very difficult to know where I’m going, and the next year could look completely different based on how I sketch it versus how it actually turns out,” Shiv says. “So my life has to be going with the flow and taking hits and opportunities as they come. I’m focusing on growing in all the different realms that I’m involved in.”