Riya Kulkarni

School: College of Science and Technology 
Degree: BS, biology, 2017  
Hometown: Dublin, California 

In high school, Riya Kulkarni, CST ’17, had a transformative cross-cultural experience when, after moving to India from the Bay Area at the age of 11, she returned to California at 16. 

While in India, as Kulkarni considered a career in medicine, she received an opportunity to shadow physicians at the Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital and Research Center in Pune. Upon her return to the States, she noted contrasting approaches to healthcare.

Since then, she has worked to improve healthcare around the world. 

Passion project 

Kulkarni was excited to attend Temple because of its urban environment and opportunities to volunteer and do research at its medical school and affiliated hospital. As an undergraduate student, she volunteered and shadowed at Temple University Hospital. 

“Volunteering there helped open my eyes to the challenges faced by many with inadequate healthcare access within the U.S.,” she said. “I realized how access was limited in a major city with so many hospitals and doctors.” 

During her first semester at Temple, Kulkarni participated in a seminar called Organizational Change, where she and others looked at certain structures within the university to see what they could improve. Her group noticed that Student Health Services didn’t have optimal hours for students to receive care. “We surveyed campus and found that other students agreed, so we were able to help expand [hours],” Kulkarni said. “It really showed that it doesn’t matter where you are in your training; you could still make change.”  

To further develop her experiences in global health, Kulkarni volunteered with a nonprofit called the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children. She spent seven weeks in eastern Uganda helping understand its HIV/AIDS program. “This experience opened my eyes to how important global health work is. I became more passionate about it, and that passion has stuck with me since,” she said. 

Healing touch

Kulkarni went on to pursue a degree in osteopathic medicine at the A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in Mesa, Arizona. During medical school, she discovered that she enjoyed working with children. “You’re truly supporting not just the child but their whole family,” she said.

She also continued working on health projects across the globe—screening children for anemia in Peru, doing medical forensic evaluations for refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and building healthcare capacity in Uganda. Additionally, during her residency in pediatrics in Arizona, she participated in multiple health missions including establishing a free clinic in rural Mexico, serving as a preceptor to U.S. medical students on a global health trip and doing a medical rotation abroad in Malawi.

Following medical school, she began a residency in pediatrics at Phoenix Children’s, one of the fastest-growing pediatric health systems in the U.S. 

Riya Kulkarni smiles while holding her stethoscope.
Riya Kulkarni posing for a photo.

“Volunteering at Temple University Hospital helped open my eyes to the challenges faced by many with inadequate healthcare access within the U.S. I realized how access was limited in a major city with so many hospitals and doctors.” 

–Riya Kulkarni
Resident physician in pediatrics

Pioneering ventures

Having experienced the healthcare setting on four continents, Kulkarni continues to develop her understanding of cultural differences in healthcare delivery and healthcare access. Wherever she is, Kulkarni strives to meet the healthcare needs of the population she is serving.

In July 2024, Kulkarni will start the next milestone of her career as a pediatric cardiology fellow at Nemours Children’s Health in Wilmington, Delaware.

“As a future pediatric cardiologist, I hope to provide pediatric cardiology services to global populations and building healthcare capacity with my global health career,” she said.