Medical Student with a Passion for Public Health Honored with Remington R. Williams Award

Award recognizes University of Missouri System students for character and collaborative spirit
Smiling woman in a yellow dress and white coat

Rithika Ginjupalli, a six-year B.A./M.D. student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, has made her mark at the intersection of medicine and public health.

Ginjupalli, originally from India and raised in Colorado, found her love for orthopedic surgery and community public health at UMKC.

Ginjupalli was honored on June 27 at the University of Missouri Board of Curators meeting as this year’s UMKC recipient of the Remington R. Williams Award, which celebrates the life and legacy of late UMKC alumnus Remington Williams (J.D. ’22), who died in a car crash in 2022.

In UMKC Chancellor Mauli Agrawal’s nomination letter, he wrote: “Rithika consistently demonstrates integrity, respect, compassion and empathy in all her interactions. Beyond her academic achievements, she works collaboratively to build and foster environments of empathy and inclusion wherever she goes.”

As a medical student, Ginjupalli has noticed a lack of crossover opportunities for two of her biggest interests: public health and medicine. In addition to her academic duties, she has leaned into public health organizations as much as her schedule allows. With involvement in organizations such as the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society, she works to effect systematic changes in public health from a medical perspective. She is currently the American Cancer Society’s congressional district lead, collaborating with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver to develop policies.

She also is heavily involved with medical research projects that focus on improving health outcomes through community-based participatory research.

“Each community is different, and that is part of the challenge when approaching systemic issues,” she said. “Community-based participatory research lets you tailor the interventions to each specific community rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.”

In this work, Ginjupalli found her niche in projects that aim to increase health literacy.

“There’s a big gap in health literacy for patients and for a lot of the community members we were seeing,” she said. “It’s an issue that’s everywhere.”

“Rithika has created opportunities for her fellow classmates to learn and participate in these advocacy spaces,” said UMKC Associate Professor Trung Pham, M.D., in his nomination letter for Ginjupalli. “Rithika is an exceptional and diligent student, consistently demonstrating her commitment to academic excellence.”

In 2023 alone, Ginjupalli was given the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award by the Association of Women Surgeons and Association of Out Surgeons and Allies, the Community Champion Award and the Award for Excellence in Diversity and Health Equity and the Ida Bamberger Memorial Research Award by the UMKC School of Medicine.

Her celebrated achievements haven’t stopped her from dreaming up more ways to make an even bigger impact. Receiving the Remington R. Williams Award is “just a sign that I’m doing something right and to continue what I’m doing,” she said. “We don’t do this work for the recognition of it. But recognizing public health work is important because it motivates others to enter this space too.”

Next up for Ginjupalli is a temporary move to Baltimore, Maryland. She will spend the next year at Johns Hopkins, earning an accelerated Master of Public Health degree before her sixth and final year at UMKC in 2025.

The Remington R. Williams Award is the highest non-academic honor that a student can receive from the Board of Curators. In addition to being a UMKC alumnus, Williams was the student representative to the University of Missouri Board of Curators (2020-2022), and this award is given to students who embody his legacy of high academic achievement, natural leadership and exceptional care to others.

Recipients are selected annually and will receive a leadership medal to wear at commencement, a $1,000 award and an invitation to be recognized at a Board of Curators meeting.

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