Govind Nair, a senior at Springfield’s Greenwood Laboratory School, has been involved in medical research while in high school.
His research, conducted alongside seasoned professionals, is focused on finding ways to combat COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among immigrants and has been accepted for publication.
At Missouri State University, where he has enrolled in courses since his freshman year, he is researching the effects of nanoparticles on a specific type of thyroid cancer.
Separately, the 18-year-old is researching the role of virtual care in treating patients with obesity.
He also has secured a coveted research internship at the MD Anderson Cancer Center run by the University of Texas, despite living hundreds of miles from Houston, where the center is located.
“The special thing about Govind has always been his self-motivation and his self-drive. He has this intrinsic need to want to succeed,” said Jeni Hopkins, the interim assistant director at Greenwood. “A lot of the classes he takes are prepping him for a medical career. He really wants to have that.”
Hopkins added: “He has such a servant’s heart. He just wants to help people.”
Govind, who is the Greenwood valedictorian and son of an oncologist and an endocrinologist at Mercy Springfield, admits he has been consumed with entering the medical field for as long as he can recall.
“I remember in fifth grade, I would get some of the anatomy books from this library and just like study them and try to memorize them because we had science class the next day that was talking about this topic,” Govind said. “And, I guess, I wanted to get ahead.”
He attended McBride Elementary and the Summit Preparatory School before finding an academic home at Greenwood.
In the laboratory school setting, Govind said he found flexibility and support to doggedly pursue learning options at Greenwood and beyond.
“The challenge of it is mostly what inspires me,” he said.
He aced an advanced biology course offered through Johns Hopkins University while in middle school.
That opened the door for Govind to start supplementing Greenwood classes with college classes four years ago. He has enrolled in multiple math and science courses at Missouri State, Missouri Southern State University and Brigham Young University.
He does not recall how many college credits he has earned so far.
Hopkins said completing high school and college coursework has required juggling for Govind but he makes it work.
“He never shirks any of the Greenwood classes. He is such a solid scholar,” she said.
Govind founded a HOSA medical club at Greenwood, which provides career exploration and competition for students.
He has been involved in a range of extracurricular activities, excelling at the state level in Science Olympiad.
A veteran of math competitions, he founded Math Mentors to help elementary students get ready to compete.
He said not having a coach to guide him early on was frustrating. “I wanted to be the mentor that I never had.”
Govind said the extra help paid off for the young students. “In just a few months, three of my students actually got qualified for nationals.”
A straight-A student, he has taken part in the Cox Medical Explorers program since 2019 and is now on the executive committee.
“I’ve rotated in various disciplines such as cardiology, neurology, Da Vinci surgery, and I have found everything interesting,” he said. “I’m also doing an observership at Mercy Hospital in the oncology and hematology division.”
In recent years, Govind has raised more than $13,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and served as vice president of Treat The Feet, a nonprofit that provides shoes to underprivileged children.
One of Govind’s early research experiences was a virtual camp through the American Diabetes Association.
“He finds these incredible opportunities that align with what he wants to do. He doesn’t just do them to do them,” Hopkins said. “That is what is so cool. They all have a purpose to his end goal.”
At the Kimberling Vision Center, Govind conducted research on the role of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on the stabilization of diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.
There, under supervision, he gains access to consenting patients. He works on medical charting and conducts vision tests.
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In early 2021, he started to work with Dr. Nisha Nigil Haroon with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. They studied COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and how hearing directly from medical professionals helped to change minds.
“We had 91 immigrants be part of the study,” he said.
Govind said it was powerful to be part of research that was timely.
“It’s definitely applicable to society today,” he said. “My research, even though it is just one paper among many and I’m only a high school student, I feel like I am somewhat contributing to society and its acceleration back to normalcy.”
He learned about the research internship through MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is limited to a handful of students primarily in the Houston area.
“I just applied anyway and I think some of my other activities showed I’d been affiliated with a lot of research,” he said. “And they gave me the opportunity.”
Govind is able to virtually participate in courses and lectures. He independently studies the latest research on new proteins, genes and immunotherapies.
“I never thought I would find an internship at MD Anderson, of all places,” he said. “But I put myself out there. I worked on my application and I did my best and I happened to get it.”
He said for each door that has opened, a bunch of others had been shut in his face. He has emailed numerous professors conducting medical research in an effort to be part of a study or paper. “I have been rejected numerous times.”
In addition to academic pursuits, Govind is a black belt in Taekwondo, speaks Spanish and is an accomplished pianist. He often takes his big dog, a Newfoundland, and plays at community and senior centers.
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Hopkins said Govind is driven but does not have an ego. Unless asked, he does not talk about what he has accomplished.
“He is very humble and very gracious and he just does what he is supposed to do,” she said. “He will brag on other students and what they’re doing and what they’re accomplishing and doesn’t even tell them ‘You know, I did this and that.'”
Govind has applied for admission this fall at Washington University in St. Louis, the six-year medical program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Johns Hopkins University, among others. He has not decided where he will go.
“I feel I will either be a physician or a researcher,” he said.
About the series
The Future of the Ozarks series featuring extraordinary students in the Ozarks publishes on Mondays.
The series spotlights students with an incredible talent, accomplishment, or passion for helping others. To nominate an individual, email Claudette Riley with details and contact information at [email protected]