Sumaira Khan 2nd PhD Scholarship

During a Gala Dinner in Delhi, La Trobe University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Theo Farrell presented Sumaira Khan with the 2024 La Trobe University PhD Scholarship, valued at more than $225,000 (AUD).

Sumaira was selected from a competitive field of applicants from across India for the four-year scholarship, designed to support aspiring female Indian researchers who want to make a meaningful impact in the world, the scholarship enables Sumaira to undertake research at La Trobe’s state-of-the-art facilities in Melbourne, Australia.

Sumaira will work with medical anthropologists Dr Tarryn Phillips and Dr Catherine Trundle to identify ways to improve healthcare for South Asian migrant women in Australia with an elevated risk of Type 2 diabetes. The study seeks to understand the factors that shape and constrain the ability to practice self-care, and inform improved healthcare design, access and equity for healthcare programs in Australia and India.

Very grateful to the scholarship, Sumaira said, “It’s life-changing for me and my family, and I’m excited to interact with La Trobe’s global community of researchers. It really is my proudest achievement.”

Indeed it is hugely promising to see Indian women to pursue solutions to challenges affecting not just Indian communities, but global issues.

Sumaira’s passion to improve health outcomes for vulnerable communities will inspire millions of other Indian women who want to improve lives through scientific study.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor, Professor Theo Farrell, said the University was proud to continue the PhD Scholarship to a student whose goal is to support some of the most vulnerable in our community.

“This ongoing scholarship is testament to the strong relationship and shared vision La Trobe has with Mr Khan to inspire positive change through education and find solutions for some of the most challenging issues facing the world,” Professor Farrell said.

“We are delighted to welcome Sumaira to La Trobe.”

Sumaira’s passion for public health grew from her own family’s experiences accessing care for her younger brother when he was diagnosed with severe autism.

In 2022, Sumaira graduated with a Master of Public Health from Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), where she received the academic prize for best first year student for achieving the highest grades in her cohort.

She has since completed an internship with Save the Children and Sangath, investigated women’s experiences of open defecation in Delhi and explored the research area of early childhood development in India. Sumaira has also worked with a social development research organization in India exploring the domains of primary health care system strengthening and vaccine hesitancy.

Also read: La Trobe Uni launches a PhD research scholarship in the name of SRK

“I’m amazed that I have this opportunity to do research in Australia, I hope my story can connect with young girls across India, to inspire them to achieve more, to believe that it’s possible for young women to follow their dreams,” Sumaira added.

Awarded in 2020, the first recipient of the La Trobe University PhD Scholarship, Gopika Kottantharayil Bhasi, has completed the first year of her PhD into a field-deployable diagnostic test for honeybee viruses, and with the aim of developing therapies to aid honeybee health.

The scholarship is named after the Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) who the University awarded an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters in 2019.

As per the La Trobe University, this was done in recognition of SRK’s humanitarian work, including establishing the Meer Foundation to support and empower women who have survived acid attacks in India.

More than 11,000 students from the Indian subcontinent have graduated from the University since La Trobe University’s inception in 1964.

The La Trobe Library collection houses more than 38,000 volumes of monographs, journals, magazines and government publications from India, one of the largest collections in Australia.

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