Skip to main content
Old Main tower with cherry blossoms

Biology major Priya Devanarayan named 2023 Oswald Award winner

23 March 2023
Devanarayan outside on sidewalk
Image provided.

Priya Devanarayan is one of two Penn State students to be honored with the 2023 John W. Oswald Award in their respective areas of leadership. The award, established in 1983, annually recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in at least one of several areas of activity at the University. The award consists of a medallion honoring John W. Oswald, president of the University from 1970 to 1983. 

Devanarayan was recognized for her outstanding scholarship. She is a Schreyer Honors College student majoring in biology in the Eberly College of Science with a minor in bioethics and medical humanities. She is passionate about critical and emergency care medicine in rural populations and has been serving as an emergency medical technician for the past two years, formerly serving with Penn State University Ambulance Service and currently serves with Penns Valley Emergency Medical Services.

Nominators said Devanarayan embraced a topic in her honor’s thesis in a way that shows not only will she make a great medical expert, but she will push for ethical change to benefit future patients as well.

Devanarayan looked at the unethical practice of unauthorized pelvic exams performed on anesthetized patients for medical training purposes.

“Ms. Devanarayan did not stop at researching in fields in which she is familiar; she expanded her focus to include substantial legal research as a non pre-law undergraduate,” a nominator said. “She sought out professionals to interview, asking difficult questions about the profession she wishes to enter. She dove into the legal, ethical and policy analysis — coming to a position contrary to the field and in an allegiance with the patient victims. She has been reflectively vocal about this unethical practice, presenting her research in Penn State undergraduate forums, at professional conferences and in an op-ed she is developing.”

Nominators said Devanarayan is precisely the type of candidate to enter the medical field. She is not only a gifted student who takes advantage of research, internships, and extracurricular activities, but she also is a critical thinker who constantly questions the status quo.

“To see a student engage in the self-directed way that Ms. Devanarayan has done on a topic that offers academic and real-world implications is rare,” a nominator said. “To see her become an advocate for victims of a practice in the field they wish to pursue is particularly impressive and demonstrates tremendous ethical leadership.”