Krishnan Subrahmanian '03

Krishnan Subrahmanian profile photoPediatrician

Thesis Title: Send In the Clowns: Humor, Medicine, and the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit

I once was having dinner with a young lady and on her bookshelf was Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. "I love de Tocqueville", she explained. We ended up chatting about civic engagement, social capital. Today, our conversations turn far more on diapers and daycare than social theory, yet in some small way, I owe thanks to Social Studies for my marriage. That is a terribly nerdy example, yet on countless occasions, from my marriage to my work with young people to conversations at the coffee shop, the readings, the methods and the lessons of Social Studies have offered me a chance connect with other human beings about really core tenets such as faith, freedom, love and meaning.

I remember late night discussions in the Pforzheimer House Dining Hall discussing concepts of wealth and inequality with my Social Studies 10 classmates. Rawls's veil of ignorance was revelatory and has shaped my political involvement in progressive causes, but whenever I engage in a political discussion and give my opinion, I also hear the voice of Nozick arguing that taxation amounts to forced labor. In a recent article about her 30-year Harvard Reunion Deborah Copaken wrote that "Intelligence, it has been said, is the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time and still function." I feel Social Studies was a master course in learning an idea and then, the next week, unlearning that idea and seeking out an entirely different truth. Then, most importantly, it was figuring about why any of these ideas matter at all, and how it might be applied to the real world.

Yet the Social Studies Curriculum has been for me, more than interesting conversations and thought exercises. While I fear that writing a ten-page paper would prove nearly impossible for me at this stage of my life, the theoretical foundations I learned in Social Studies served as a launching pad for my career in applied science, medicine and public health. In Kiku Adatto's class on childhood, I first learned how childhood has been constructed in western societies as a sacred, special and protected time of life. In reading There are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz and in viewing the photo documentation of muckracker Jacob Riis, we witnessed how that sacred time of life was not a reality for every child. This led me to work with young people.

Over the years I have seen the ways in which pathology and poverty encroach and attempt to deny young people a childhood. As a teacher and as a pediatrician, in classrooms, camps, clinics, hospitals or most importantly in the four walls of their own home, my goal is to empower families with the skills to allow their kids to enjoy their childhood.