BHP Alumni Spotlight: Savitha Bonthala – Class of 2008

In June, 2008 BHP alumnae Savitha Bonthala, will receive a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a master’s in public health degree from the Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her involvement with the American Medical Women’s Association over the past few years, has allowed her to travel to Uganda to help deliver medical aid. We recently visited with Savitha to learn more about her experiences in global healthcare, and what she has been doing since graduating from the BHP.

How did you become interested in going into the medical field?

What got me interested in medicine originally was my interest in global health. I was born in India and raised in the United States, and when I went back to visit seeing the poverty there was astounding and I felt a calling to work in global health.

What is osteopathic medicine and what do you hope to do with your degree after graduation?

Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is similar to Allopathic medicine (MD) but in osteopathic training, you also learn how to use your hands to diagnose and treat different chronic, or acute issues of the body. We focus on treating the whole patient, in terms of body, mind and spirit. It is a holistic and comprehensive approach to treating a patient. In addition to a holistic approach, I would like to do more public health work, especially in terms of education and children, because that is where I think I will make the biggest impact.

What have you been working on through your involvement in the American Medical Women’s Association?

We promote gender equality and medicine and I am in a fellowship through the association. I am currently the Global Health Chair for the association, so I help promote and expand global health opportunities for students who are members of the association. I am currently one of eight female medical students chosen from across the country to participate in the Anne C. Carter Global Health Fellowship. I was granted the fellowship in 2010 and will remain a fellow until I graduate. It has allowed me to travel to Uganda in February 2012. I went to Uganda for two weeks and worked in a small primary care clinic. I treated people of all ages, from infants to those who were well into their 90s.

What kind of health issues were you seeing frequently?

We had a lot of children with malaria come into the clinic. It was our number one pediatric diagnosis. Because of the enormous impact of malaria in the community, we went out to the village and spent time educating children about the disease. Children can get malaria anywhere from three to five times, or more, in their lifetimes there. It is one thing to treat the malaria, but another to also educate, so that we don’t have to treat as many cases. I spent a lot of my time educating people. I loved the work I was doing.

We also treated a lot of chronic issues such as hypertension, diabetes, etc. which was at times frustrating because if they had access to a primary care physician sooner, their problems would have been more controlled. With limited access to resources and considerable financial constraints, most patients came to us when their disease was very advanced.

Most people in the village don’t even have access to running water or electricity coupled with very little help from their government. In the United States we see what our government does for society in terms of health care and education. When you go abroad, you see what can happen without that support and it is very disheartening. In Uganda there is no public school system and most of the children don’t have adequate access to education.  To help a group of people you need to address both education and healthcare. Without addressing both, you can’t help a group of people.

Do you have any advice for current students interested in medical school?

I took opportunities in school that made a difference in the community and that has made a difference in my path. I volunteered because the concept of helping others was paramount in my life. Becoming a healer was my ultimate goal. However, getting into medical school was really difficult for me. I was rejected by a lot schools, but I took the initiative to reach out to the school I really wanted to go to, and let them know how interested I was, and I got in. Be open to where life may take you and you will be pleasantly surprised. When one door closes, another one will definitely open.

HBA Dinner with an Alumnus: The Jordan Ripley Edition

Written by Nikki Cassidy

gour·mand (noun): one who is heartily interested in good food and drink

This definition seems to be a very accurate description of the participants at the recent DWAA (Dinner with an Alumnus) with Jordan Ripley. We met Jordan, who graduated BHP and Marketing in spring 2012, at the family-owned Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub in East Austin. The restaurant, known for its sandwiches and casual atmosphere, turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy a delicious dinner and lively conversation with 15 students and alumni.

A past member of the HBA executive board and last year’s Mr. McCombs, Jordan is well known and favored among BHP students. He currently lives in Austin and works as an analyst at Adlucent, an advertising firm that specializes in predictive search and shopping analytics. In addition to plenty of sandwiches, his dinner included cheerful reminiscing, advice for current students, and jokes all around. Overall, the event was a great success!

Notably, Ben Rogers, another recent BHP alumnus in town for the weekend, also attended the event to share his wisdom and humor with event participants.

The next HBA alumni event will be a dinner and game night with Yun and Odile Du in early March.

Talented Mr. Ripley Takes on Mr. McCombs Pageant

Written by Forrest Ripley

As President of HBA, I am used to representing our organization at various meetings and events. However, last week required using a myriad of new skills to rep my favorite organization as I was elected to represent HBA in the annual Mr. Mccombs male pageant, a night of fun to raise money for a good cause. In this friendly competition I would vie for the Mr. McCombs crown along with 8 other gentlemen from other McCombs student organizations. After spending a month practicing my dancing, figuring out what my talents were, and attempting to get my body in swimsuit season shape, the big night finally arrived. My fellow pageant members and I began the evening with an elaborate group dance choreographed to Macklemore’s finest beats. It’s hard to describe the camaraderie I built with my fellow men after jointly spending two weeks learning how to best moonwalk, flex our guns, and shake our booties.

After the dance, each contestant made three return trips to the stage to model their outfit of choice, show off their swimsuit fashion, and display their finest talents. For my outfit of choice, I donned my full-body taco costume I conveniently already owned to epitomize my lifelong love of Austin’s most famous Tex-Mex cuisine. In the highly anticipated swimsuit round, I proudly showcased my winter tan lines by wearing retro pastel swimtrucks complete with an inflatable crocodile innertube. At last came the talent portion of the evening. Because of my indecisiveness in picking a talent, I decided to try out several skills in lieu of a single talent. To begin, I played Adele’s Someone Like You on my keyboard while singing the song an octave or two lower than the song’s author. For the second half of the song, I abandoned my keyboard and relied on the actual music track while I tested the limits of my juggling abilities by tossing, catching, (and occasionally dropping) an assortment of balls and clubs.

In the end, I did not walk away with the coveted Mr. McCombs crown, but I had a blast pretending to be talented, beautiful, and graceful. The amount of support from my fellow BHPers made the experience even more fun. Even better, all of the event’s proceeds ended up raising more than 2000 cans for the Capital Area Food Bank in addition to more than $500 to the winner’s charity of choice. All in all, it was quite a successful night.


BHP Student, Maggie Hood, Part of Winning National Case Competition Team

Congratulations to Maggie Hood and her team for winning the Deloitte FanTAXtic Case Competition! Read the full story below, originally published on McCombs Today.

Written by Kelly Fine

The Tower was bathed in orange light on Wednesday to celebrate a McCombs  School of Business victory in the Deloitte FanTAXtic Case Competition. McCombs’ five-person team took home a $10,000 reward for the University of Texas at Austin, $2,000 in personal scholarships for each team member, and the priceless pride that comes from defeating the defending champion, the College of William and Mary.

The national competition was held at Deloitte University in Dallas from Jan. 18-20. The team, made up of David Patterson, MPA, Scott Huff, MPA, Maggie Hood, BHP/finance, Michelle Niakan, MPA, and David O’Neill, accounting, first competed against seven regional teams in early November. The teams were given several weeks to prepare a presentation on a complex business tax case regarding partnership tax and international tax codes.

Then, the winning teams from each of the nine regions across the United States met to compete for the national title. For the national event, however, the teams were given only general areas to research prior to the competition. Once they arrived in Dallas, they were given the new case and two hours to prepare a client memo, which they then presented to the “client” judges. The following morning, they were given new facts, more questions, and three hours to create a presentation.

Patterson said the hardest part of the competition was working so quickly with so much new information.

“The national competition was really high pressure because we had never seen any of the facts,” Patterson said. “We had a general idea of what they would ask, but we didn’t have any of the numbers or questions.”

O’Neill said he is thankful for the experience because it gave him a better understanding of what to expect in the future.

“This is a beneficial experience because I get to see what tax professionals do on a day to day basis,” O’Neill said. “It is good to apply what you learn in class to what you do in the job.”

Patterson and O’Neill agreed that one of the most rewarding aspects of the competition was the friendships formed.

“I definitely think that it was a valuable experience, and I would recommend it for anyone. There is a lot of pressure, but there is a pressure in the real world with deadlines, also,” Patterson said. “You’re also working with a team that’s very smart, and that’s a lot of fun. It’s nice to have that experience and build camaraderie amongst the team.”

BHP Student Spotlight – George Chidiac

BHP freshman, George Chidiac, made his way to Austin from El Paso. As one of only a small group of El Paso students to come to McCombs, he has had to make new friends here. BHP has been a great place for him to make friends and UT and McCombs have allowed him to learn about and explore new areas of interest. We sat down with him to find out more about what his first year here has been like.

Why did you decide that the BHP was right for you?

I knew I wanted to do business wherever I went to school and I really wanted to live in Austin. BHP has a very strong reputation, so that was a big selling point for me. I made my decision during Discover BHP. When professor Prentice spoke to us about the program, particularly about the quality of the professors, it really sold me on the program. The student culture here is very supportive and very laid back; students know their peers are good and it turns into a collaborative effort to succeed, rather than being cutthroat.

What has been most surprising about the BHP so far?

There is so much about BHP that I didn’t know. The access to all the resources is amazing. People want to help you and they go out of their way for you. For example, I want to go the entrepreneurial route, and have been able to have discussions with the current McCombs Entrepreneur in Residence about what I would like to. I also have John Butler for a class, who has started many companies and has extensive experience in entrepreneurship. They are helping me find an internship and are also teaching me about starting my own business. Also the upperclassmen in BHP really mean it when they say they want to help you. They have recommended classes and professors to me, which has been really helpful.

What has been your favorite class this year?

I would have to say my class with John Butler. It is called Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is like being a pilot. You don’t just jump into a plane and start flying; it’s all about educating yourself beforehand. This class is teaching me about everything and why it works and why it doesn’t. That is giving me the tools to take my own ideas and test them. Dr. Butler is also very funny and super confident. He really knows his stuff and it is very reassuring to know that you are being taught by someone who is so knowledgeable. The books I have for many of my classes this year were actually written by the professors teaching me, so I know they are experts and that is really great.

What organizations and activities are you involved in?

I am involved in HBA, Young Life, BHP Steering Committee, and am pledging a fraternity. HBA does an event called “Dinner With a Professor,” and through that event, I was able to meet the professor I will have this summer when I take part in the BHP study abroad opportunity in Argentina. The social events for HBA involve all the classes, so I get to meet other BHP students outside of my class. I came here not really knowing anyone and it has been nice to have support from people in BHP and the other organizations I am involved in.

What do you like to do for fun in Austin?

I love dancing. I didn’t go dancing before I came here. A group of friends were going country dancing to Midnight Rodeo and I went with them and really loved it. I am hooked now and am actually taking a social dance class, which is a mix of all styles of dance; two-step, tango, east-coast and west-coast swing. It has helped me get out of my comfort zone.

As a freshman in the program, you were assigned a peer mentor. Was that relationship valuable to you?

Ben Rogers is my peer mentor and he has been great. He has taken me to restaurants around Austin for fun. We became good friends. He showed me around Austin and has always been there to answer any questions that came up for me. It was nice to know that I had access to someone who has done it already. He has been a peer mentor for several classes of BHP students, so it has also helped me bond with other students who had him as a peer mentor as well.

How do you think the funds from BHP alumnus, Woody Hunt’s, El Paso scholarships will affect students in the West Texas region?

The gift he made isn’t just important because of the money. It is actually bringing a much needed emphasis on UT to the region. A lot of the really gifted kids in El Paso leave and never come back, or they just aren’t challenging themselves like they need to. I think that if more El Paso students came to UT, they would be more likely to stay in-state and maybe go back to El Paso after graduation. The Hunt gift will be able to take money off the table of factors being considered when students are deciding. A lot of students are deterred by the costs since other schools are offering them scholarships. With a scholarship to BHP, they can really consider their options. This is a statement to students showing that we are going to reward those who are working hard, so work hard and challenge yourself. I wouldn’t have been able to come to UT if it weren’t for people who supported me both financially and personally. Help goes a long way and I think his help in the form of scholarships could be quite far reaching.