Campus doctoral student Iemaan Rana has been awarded a $26,000 Gunther and Lee Weigel Medical School Scholarship by the Elks National Foundation.
Rana, who attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and received a master’s degree in public health earlier this year, focused her research on ubiquitous environmental pollutants, or UEPs, with Luoping Zhang, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Rana is concurrently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the School of Public Health and the M.D. program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
During her research, Rana was “alarmed” to learn that UEPs from industrial runoff and discounted consumer goods surrounded her predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Chicago, putting them at an increased risk of exposure to the pollutants and resulting disease.
“Since then, it became my mission to understand how UEPs can mediate chronic disease, and how we can harness that knowledge to initiate policies to protect vulnerable communities,” Rana said in an email.
After working with Rana for nearly seven years, Zhang described her as an exceptional student.
With the onset of COVID-19, Rana and Zhang’s work has moved virtually, with Zhang recalling a recent conversation her husband happened to overhear. Zhang said her husband was surprised to hear her speak so “roughly” to a student, to which she reassured him, “Don’t worry! This is a student I know so well.”
Over the years, Zhang said she has been able to witness Rana’s academic growth, nowadays viewing her less as a student and more as her “right hand partner” and colleague.
Together, Rana and Zhang have studied the impacts of glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the United States and the main active ingredient used in the Monsanto product Roundup, on chronic disease.
Rana has also studied UEPs such as formaldehyde and benzene, according to a School of Public Health press release.
“Understanding how UEPs affect human health and promoting safer alternatives will be maximally beneficial for society,” Rana said in the email. “We will be able to protect individuals at the local level, create health-based policies, and ultimately create a safer environment for generations to come.”
The Gunther and Lee Weigel Medical School Scholarship has awarded a total of $1.1 million to 51 medical students since 2011, according to Colleen Conrad, manager of scholarship programs at the Elks National Foundation.
Conrad added in an email that the program is proud of Rana’s many accomplishments and is glad to be supporting her as she begins her journey through medical school.
“I am honored to represent the UC Berkeley community as an Elks National Foundation Weigel Scholar,” Rana said in the email. “My work at UCB has allowed me to witness the power of research to amplify the stories of vulnerable people and catalyze health protective policies limiting use of these harmful chemicals.”