Sid Ganesh is determined to help people with substance use disorders and to influence the healthcare policies that might prevent drug overdose deaths.
It’s not the career she envisioned for herself.
As a teenager, Ganesh developed a chronic pain condition. Despite numerous trips to doctors, her condition went undiagnosed for three years. At that point, she was unable to get out of bed. It was this personal experience that led her to UC Davis to study the neurobiology of pain.
Her plans changed when she began working at the Joan Viteri Memorial Clinic, or JVMC. As co-director of the student-run clinic, Ganesh worked with vulnerable populations, including people who use drugs and people involved in the sex trade. In some of those people, Ganesh recognized something familiar. She calls it “invisible illness.”
“I know what it is to be invisible — not visibly ill,” she says. “It’s important to dig deeper. We need to understand the relationships people have with the substances they are using and how social institutions have impacted that.”
As a 2019 Provost Undergraduate Fellow, Ganesh received funding to study the relationship between poverty and substance use in Sacramento County.
She hopes her research will be the first step toward creating more equitable healthcare policies to better serve marginalized populations, particularly diverse communities that are disproportionately impacted by substance use disorders.
“To create truly evidence-based solutions, we first need to do the research. We need to humanize the process and reduce the stigma and shame around it,” she says.
A native of Mumbai, India, Ganesh is a double major in Psychology and Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. This year, she is teaching UC Davis’ first-ever course on harm reduction, which aims to mitigate the negative consequences of substance use.