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Healing the World

Health activist and entrepreneur Bernadette Lim researched the intersection of entrepreneurship, health equity and gender equality through her Fulbright-Nehru Student Research Fellowship.

Bernadette Lim is a medical student in the University of California (UC) Berkeley and UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program and UCSF Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved. She has a long track record of social justice advocacy work and is the founder and director of Freedom Community Clinic in Oakland. The health activist and entrepreneur is also a 2016-17 Fulbright-Nehru Student Researcher, focusing on the intersection of entrepreneurship, health equity and gender equality.

As a Filipina and Toisanese immigrant born and raised in Los Angeles, California, her passion for justice and empowerment sprouted from her early years witnessing the health disparities in her community, which mostly consisted Mexican and Filipino immigrants, with other communities. This is when she realized that she wanted to spend her life as a public servant, similar to her parents, and give back to those who are marginalized and often forgotten. “It is everyone’s responsibility to uplift each other. Giving back was, and continues to be, central to my life purpose,” says Lim.

With that in mind, she studied Human Evolutionary Biology as an undergraduate student at Harvard University. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen was her mentor, teaching her to see the problems of the world with an interdisciplinary focus.

In 2014, while studying at Harvard University, Lim cofounded Women SPEAK, a nonprofit focused on empowering young female leaders to take action against gender and social inequities. Women SPEAK has grown into “a national initiative cultivating dialogue and mentoring relationships centered on gender, identity and social justice,” states the organization website.

For her Fulbright-Nehru project, Lim worked to improve maternal and child health outcomes through training in empowerment and agency, in partnership with Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences in Wardha, Maharashtra. The training aimed to empower women to cultivate individual agency in order to increase their participation in household decision-making. Lim spent most of her time conducting over 30 interviews with various physicians, hospital staff and medical students on gender differences in mental health. She led five women’s support group sessions at local community centers for university students and young women in Mumbai and Pune. She was invited as a speaker at U.S. Embassy New Delhi and U.S. Consulate General Mumbai to hold intercultural exchange workshops on women’s leadership and activism in the United States.

In India, Lim learned how much the country’s colonial history and caste system are intertwined with women’s empowerment. She feels that what female empowerment looks like in the United States is quite different than that in India in terms of employment, relationships and education.

Lim is also the creator and co-host of the popular podcast “Woke WOC Docs” that tells the narratives of women of color in medicine.

For her work, Lim has been named as the youngest recipient of the National Minority Quality Forum Top 40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health, California Senate District 29 Women of the Year Honoree, and Pacific Standard Top 30 Under 30 Thinkers in Policy and Social Justice.


Megan McDrew, based in Monterey, California, is a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as the University of California, Merced.