IOWA Magazine | 09-16-2021

Iowa Medical Student Authors Children's Book to Fight Skin Stigma

Fourth-year UI Carver College of Medicine student Pavane Gorrepati publishes a book to educate young readers about alopecia, a condition that can cause childhood hair loss.
Pavane Gorrepati, Katelyn Weisbrod, and Gage Miskimen PHOTO COURTESY DAILY IOWAN In 2019, UI medical student Pavane Gorrepati (center) worked with Daily Iowan editors Katelyn Weisbrod (left) and Gage Miskimen (right) to launch "The Doctor Is In" column. Since then, Gorrepati has written a book to help kids understand alopecia.

Studying to become a medical doctor is just one of Pavane Gorrepati's current pursuits.

While working to earn an MD at the University of Iowa's Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, Gorrepati launched the Unblemished Initiative, an organization that works to help reduce the stigma associated with dermatological conditions by educating school-aged kids.

Gorrepati says she was motivated by her own childhood experiences to create this foundation and write her book, I Am More Than My Hair, which follows the journey of a girl who loses her hair due to alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that can cause hair loss or balding.

"Often, when kids don't understand something or don't know, it can become an opportunity to shame or ridicule others," Gorrepati says. "I've had similar experiences growing up, and I wanted to fill this need."

Gorrepati worked with Dr. Nkanyezi Ferguson (14F, 15F), clinical associate professor of dermatology at the Carver College of Medicine, who helped review content. Ferguson says the book will be a great resource to children and parents.

"I am confident [the book] will have a positive influence on children experiencing alopecia during an incredibly formative time in their lives," says Ferguson. "I am very proud of the thoughtful way in which Pavane approaches educating and supporting youth."

Gorrepati was born in Council Bluffs and spent most of her youth in Davenport. She earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University, where she studied the history of science, medicine, and public health, and received a certificate in global health studies—but was drawn back to the Hawkeye State for medical school.

The Iowa native says while she loves studying medicine, after her first year, she felt like she was missing something—so she started The Daily Iowan newspaper column "The Doctor Is In."

"As an undergraduate student, writing had always been a constant part of my life and suddenly it wasn't," Gorrepati says. "I wanted to create an outlet for students."

The column has since expanded to include UI writers studying dentistry, physical therapy, and pharmacy.

Gorrepati has also authored more than 15 research publications and has been repeatedly recognized for her work. Since 2012, she has received more than $20,000 in research grants and has won several prestigious awards.

Most recently, she was honored with a Hancher-Finkbine medallion, a symbol of the UI's highest esteem. This designation recognizes members of the Hawkeye family for leadership, learning, and loyalty. Medallions are awarded each year to four students, a professor, and an alum.

"There are so many amazing students here at Iowa who are doing such incredible things that I was just honored to be mentioned alongside of them," Gorrepati says.

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