KOKOMO, Ind. – When Carina Rajagopal was growing up in the Philippines, access to medical care was only available by a 35-minute boat ride across the ocean to another island.
With her degrees from Indiana University Kokomo, she’s taking the next steps to become a health care provider so she can volunteer her services in her home country. She graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, after earning her degree in biological and physical sciences in 2019.
Her next step is to attend pharmacy school at Manchester University, with medical school to follow.
“It would mean the world to me to help people, and to go to underserved areas,” said Rajagopal, who lives in Kokomo with her husband and two children. “I look forward to doing that. IU Kokomo has prepared me for the opportunity to have a bright future ahead.”
Her friends and family in the Philippines are proud of her achievements.
“Who would have thought a girl from our island would come to the United States and have two degrees, and on top of that, be accepted to pharmacy school?” she stated. “It’s a dream come true. I’m humbled by the opportunities I’ve had, and grateful for what I’ve experienced.”
The last weeks of completing her degree were the most challenging, with classes transitioning to remote learning because of Covid-19. The pandemic also meant her parents, who are older and among the more vulnerable to virus, were no longer available to help with her daughter, 8, and son, 7.
“It was challenging, but you can’t do anything but make your way through it,” she said. “We each did our own thing and studied together. I talked to them and explained that I have other things going on, but I was there while they were working. Now we’re all done, and I’m very happy.”
She’s happy to have achieved her dreams of a college education, which seemed a long way off when she graduated from high school in the Philippines. The cost of school meant her older siblings went first. She started a nursing degree before meeting her husband, getting married, and moving to Kokomo.
She waited a little longer after starting her family, until the children could be in school and her parents moved to help. Once there, it was even better than she expected.
“I loved going to school at IU Kokomo,” she said. “My academic progress was due to the challenges and opportunities provided by our professors. They shepherded me through times of doubt and difficulty. It’s a small community, where everybody knows you and they are willing to help you out.”
In addition to her classes, Rajapogal was an officer for the student club in the School of Sciences. She participated in a research project on water quality with Christian Chauret, dean of the School of Sciences, in collaboration with the Howard County Stormwater District.
Chauret noted her acceptance to the Doctor of Pharmacy program is a great accomplishment.
“Carina is very dedicated and hard working,” he said. “She has a strong work ethic. In the lab, she was meticulous and a fast learner.”
Rajagopal also completed a research project with Hisako Masuda, associate professor of biochemistry, preparing a presentation for the campus undergraduate research symposium.
She looks forward to continuing her education in the fall, and preparing to return to the island where she grew up, this time to be of service.
“Over there (Philippines), your success is their success, too,” she said. “Whether I’m a pharmacist or a physician, I can help people, just in different ways. The more knowledge you have, the better helper you are and the more people you can help.”
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.