The Charger Blog

MPH Candidate Headed to Harvard to Research Link Between Social Media Use and Mental Health

Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH, president of the Student Public Health Association, will spend the summer at Harvard studying the connection between mental and physical health and technology use.

May 23, 2023

By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer

Emily Bogdanowicz ’23, ’24 MBA.
Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH.

The day before his interview for a distinguished Harvard internship, Sanmit Jindal’s phone rang.

It was his professor, Alvin Tran, ScD, MPH, assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and director of the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program.

“He’d written me a letter of recommendation and now he was calling to see if he could help me prepare for the interview,” said Jindal’24 MPH, noting this was emblematic of faculty in the MPH program. “They are so approachable. They are always there for you.”

A few weeks later, Jindal was selected as one of 10 interns to spend the summer at the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His 10-week internship starts in June. “I can’t wait to begin,” he said.

‘I will learn so much’

Jindal will work as a research assistant for Laura Marciano, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Harvard. “She is working on many projects simultaneously, trying to find a link between mental health and physical health and social media and technology use,” he said.

“Not only will Sanmit be applying essential skills he developed from our Master of Public Health program, but he will be working alongside leading researchers to understand the adverse impact of social media use on the mental health of the American people – a topic that is a priority of the U.S. Surgeon General,” said Dr. Tran.

Each week, Jindal will meet with the nine other interns to discuss what they’re each working on. “I will learn so much,” he said.

A major goal, too, is to have the chance to talk with Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Ph.D., Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication, and the Sheung Center’s Co-Director. “He is such a renowned person and I definitely hope to meet him,” Jindal said.

Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH (second from left) at an event with his fellow Chargers, including Dr. Alvin Tran (second from right).
Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH (second from left) at an event with his fellow Chargers, including Dr. Alvin Tran (second from right).
‘Changed the way I approach medicine’

Jindal says he hopes the internship will inform his future work in public health research and, eventually, as a doctor in the U.S., as he intends to practice either psychiatry or internal medicine.

Jindal, who came to the U.S. after working as a medical officer in the Department of Health and Family Welfare in Punjab India, received his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from Dayanand Medical College & Hospital. He decided to pursue his MPH at the University after reaching out to alumni of the program.

As a Fellow in the University’s WeEmbody Lab, “I was part of the team that did a survey on food insecurity on college campuses. Dr. Tran taught us how to create the survey, what questions should be asked, how you should frame the questions and how to collect and analyze data,” he explained.

Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH (front, center) with his fellow Chargers.
Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH (front, center) with his fellow Chargers.

Most important, he said, is that his courses, professors, and experiences in public health “have changed the way I approach medicine.”

“Before, I felt that as a physician you just do diagnosis and treatment,” he said. “Public health gives you empathy toward the patient as well. Now I know about the problems my patients’ communities are facing. I didn’t know people are going through so many things. We’ve talked about health equity and health equality. It’s a very important thing that I understand now. I continue to learn so much.”

That will be true of his Harvard internship as well, he said. “I talked to last year’s interns and they’re still doing research with Harvard, and they are getting published,” he said. “I will try to do that same thing!”

Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH with Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States.
Sanmit Jindal ’24 MPH with Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States.