DU Undergrad Finds Passion in Helping Others
A DU pre-med senior with a passion for medical research and veterans already has racked up a slew of achievements. So what challenges will Anit Tyagi conquer next?
Tyagi is co-chair of the Chancellor's Student Advisory Board and president of the University’s Pre-Health Society. He’s co-written three scholarly articles, plus pieces on everything from environmental restoration to research grants for DU students.
As a freshman in 2019, he got a summer internship at the Gates Center for Regenerative Medicine, part of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
And Tyagi has won two very different scholarships.
After volunteering more than 1,000 hours at Veterans Administration medical centers, he received the $7,500 Jesse Brown Youth Memorial Scholarship last year from the Disabled American Veterans.
He started as a high school freshman and kept volunteering when he got to DU, diving in to help the emergency team at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center.
The scholarship “reaffirms my desire to give back to those who have already given us so much,” Tyagi told the DAV.
While the VA was gathering veterans’ life stories, Tyagi suggested doing them on video, says Eva Gergely, chief of the VA Center for Development and Civic Engagement.
“He’s a wonderful volunteer,” Gergely says. “We love having him. He volunteers in our palliative care, and that’s why he thought this would be a wonderful idea. It’s a piece for the veterans and their loved ones. He’s so thorough, and he’s very passionate about this.
“Our national director is very excited that he’s bringing (his work) in from the university level, and we’re starting to see younger and younger volunteers. It’s like a dream come true.”
Few 21-year-olds likely devote hours to veterans in hospice care, but Tyagi says it’s rewarding despite the eventual deaths of his new friends. And while people eventually forget a loved one’s voice, he says, the video program he launched preserves that for veterans’ families.
Will he still volunteer after graduation in May? “Yes!” he exclaimed enthusiastically.
Tyagi also won a Barry Goldwater Scholarship rarely given to sophomores, providing him $7,500 each in the 2020 and 2021 school years. It’s provided in partnership with the Defense Department to students excelling in STEM.
And in February, the Council on Undergraduate Research accepted one of his abstracts to its Posters on the Hill 2022, making Tyagi one of 60 U.S. students so honored. In late April, the council was to showcase his work, train him in advocacy for science research and have him present to members of Congress and their staffs.
His winning abstract, researched with Dr. Antonio Jimeno of the University of Colorado Cancer Center: "Investigating Why the Anti-cancer Drug, Pembrolizumab, Fails in Certain Patients and Counterintuitively Promotes Melanoma Proliferation.”
“Research is important,” Tyagi says. “But also, human elements over the past four years have been really important to me. Human connections are really important.”
He has a special interest in dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease, which killed his grandmother.
“My grandmother was the matriarch,” he says. “To see someone with that stature fall apart was really hard. That launched my interest in aging, cancer and Alzheimer’s. All of us are just composed of our memories and past experiences. That’s who we are today.”
His goal now is to go to medical school and ultimately work in research, treatment and, ideally, health policy – another of his many interests. Meanwhile, he coordinates care at the DAWN Clinic, a free center for uninsured Aurora residents, and connects those patients with resources.
Does he have time for fun? “My favorite thing to do is reading current events and political articles and then reading through the comment section,” Tyagi says. “I read The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.”
He’s not strictly cerebral though, thanks to his love of pickleball. “When I was younger, I played tennis. But pickleball is so much fun because the volley lasts longer.”
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