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MIT student Malhaar Agrawal named 2023 Truman Scholar

Fellowship provides funding for graduate school and recognizes future public service leaders.
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Malhaar Agrawal poses in front of a flower bed, with foliage in the background
MIT junior Malhaar Agrawal has been selected as a 2023 Truman Scholar.
Photo: Malhaar Agrawal

MIT junior Malhaar Agrawal has been selected as a 2023 Truman Scholar. Established by the U.S. Congress in 1975 as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman and a national monument to public service, the Truman Scholarship supports and inspires the next generation of public service leaders. Truman Scholars are selected for their outstanding leadership potential, commitment to a career in public service, and academic excellence.

Agrawal, who is majoring in humanities and science, joins the 61 other new Truman Scholars who were selected from 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities. Seventeen independent selection panels evaluated the finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders. Regional selection panels included distinguished civic leaders, elected officials, university presidents, federal judges, and past Truman Scholarship winners.     

Agrawal was supported by MIT’s Truman Selection Committee, chaired by Ann F. Friedlaender Professor of History Anne McCants, and MIT’s Distinguished Fellowships team in Career Advising and Professional Development. Kimberly Benard, director of distinguished fellowships, says, “Malhaar is dedicated to service. Since high school, he has worked to reduce disparities in health care and has previously been recognized by both the Bronx and Brooklyn borough presidents for his work. At MIT, he has only expanded his reach. We are all excited to see where he goes, and how he continues to fight for underserved populations. He is an excellent representative of what MIT stands for, and we are very proud that he was named a Truman Scholar.”

Agrawal, who hails from Westchester County, New York, plans to pursue a career in public health and policy advocacy with a focus on improving health equity. In 2016, he began to investigate health inequities through an internship with the Brooklyn Health Disparity Center, an organization that seeks to bridge the gap through local outreach in underserved communities. Subsequently, Agrawal founded his own version of the program, Health Disparity, in the Bronx. It provides health education to underserved youth through school and community workshops. McCants says, “The fact that Malhaar honed his vision for the wider spread of lifesaving health-care information by visiting local barber shops and meeting people where they lived says so much about his commitment to a career in public health. For Malhaar, public service without the public just doesn’t make any sense.”

Agrawal came to MIT to study the issues surrounding health care inequities through both technology and the social sciences and chose to major in humanities and science. During his first year of courses, he accepted a research position with Professor Jonathan Gruber, creating a statistical model using national scientific publication data to compare international innovation during the Covid-19 lockdowns, which was published in the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal and was recognized by the Office of the First Year’s Research Award. Agrawal followed up this experience with a research position with associate professor of urban planning and public health Mariana Arcaya, in which he conducted both qualitative and quantitative research on racial justice in academic literature. This past spring, Agrawal interned in the White House in the Council of Economic Advisors, examining inequities across the economy during the recovery from Covid-19.

Agrawal’s work at MIT has culminated in a startup called ProstateNinja, a portal for patients with prostate cancer to increase their access to clinical trials and health-care providers. He envisioned and developed the idea through the HackHarvard hackathon and funding from MIT Sandbox. Agrawal wants to take his knowledge and continue to develop innovations that improve health access.

Outside of Agrawal’s dedication to health disparities, he developed a passion for politics and hosted a weekly radio show, “Let’s Talk Politics,” on MIT’s community radio station WMBR 88.1 FM. On the show, Agrawal discussed events and topics of political, social, and cultural relevance. This year, he is participating in study abroad at the University of Oxford, where he is further exploring race through the lens of Victorian English literature. He has also become involved with their debate society, the Oxford Union, and plays rugby on his college team.

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