About 200 people gathered at the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building for the Fourth Annual Sujal Parikh Memorial Symposium for Health and Social Justice.

In 2010, University medical student Sujal Parikh was killed in a motorcycle accident in Kampala, Uganda, where he was conducting AIDS research as a Fogarty International Clinical Research scholar.

“It was really started with friends and colleagues that were inspired by his story and inspired by his ability to bring people together,” said medical student Maia Anderson, the symposium’s student leadership chair.

The interdisciplinary event aims to draw students interested in medicine, law, pharmacy, business and public health. Rackham student Nadia Sebastian, a member of the student planning board, said it is designed to be a celebration of Parikh’s life and an opportunity for students with similar interests to discuss global health and social justice issues.

This year the symposium was designed to be as interactive as possible, Anderson said. The event featured two Design Thinking Sessions, one titled “Re-Envisioning Global Engagement at UM” and the other titled “What Comes Next?” The event also featured two keynote speakers, several lightning talks and poster sessions, which gave students and faculty the opportunity to present their research.

The first keynote speaker was Dr. Vincent Iacopino, senior medical adviser at Physicians for Human Rights and an adjunct professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Throughout his career, Iacopino has traveled across the world teaching people in underserved areas how to better use available tools to diagnose and treat diseases. At the symposium, he stressed the importance of not only understanding medicine, but also the social issues that surround it.

Jonathan Shaffer, coordinator for community engagement at the global health nonprofit Partners In Health, was the second keynote speaker. He discussed health care as a fundamental human right and the work that Partners In Health performs, including building hospitals in countries such as Haiti and Rwanda.

The daylong event was a testament not only to Parikh’s legacy, but also to the issues that he cared deeply about.

Parikh’s father, Manoj Parikh, began taking his son to volunteer at their Hindu temple in Dallas, Texas each Sunday when Sujal was four years old. This early exposure to volunteerism as well as the work of civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi inspired Sujal to devote his life to promoting peace and social justice around the world.

Parikh was an Eagle Scout, earned degrees in neurobiology and public health from the University of California, Berkeley, served on the Student Advisory Board of Physicians for Human Rights and won a Campus Independent Journalism Award for best political commentary for his 2006 piece condemning the death penalty, titled “A New Vision of Justice.”

“He told me one time, ‘Dad, I’d like to go on the edge of an active volcano, on the crater of an active volcano,’ and he did that in Rwanda in 2007, the Gometz Volcano,” Manoj Parikh said about his son.

Medical student Megha Trivedi, Parikh’s cousin, emphasized Parikh’s passion for serving mankind and eradicating the injustices he encountered.

“If he saw this today he would want it to be more about the issues — social justice, global health disparities, more than himself,” Trivedi said. “And that’s what he worked for all his life.”

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