June 28, 2007
Honors pile up for UCLA graduate Diana Tehrani
As one of 18 recipients of the Alumni Association's Outstanding Senior Award this year, and one of three recipients of the Young Humanitarian Award in a graduating class of more than 9,000 students, Tehrani is only the third student in UCLA's history to receive both awards simultaneously.
One of the deciding factors in selecting Tehrani for the honors was her work over the last two years with the UCLA Mobile Clinic, which offers basic medical exams and screenings to homeless people in West Hollywood.
"I looked into the Mobile Clinic more and more and found that they did good work," Tehrani said. "I also appreciated that there was extensive training, so students could really be involved and were not just given a minor role."
After she started volunteering for the clinic, Tehrani said she noticed that the fragile mental health of the patients impaired her ability to identify their physical ailments.
"It is difficult to address someone's physical symptoms when a mental illness is running their life," she said.
Tehrani, who intends to study psychiatry in medical school, said homelessness is a symptom of deeper mental health issues.
"Without addressing the root of the problem, it is difficult to really help in any long-term way, and it was clear that there was a serious unmet need," she said.
Tehrani worked to add mental health care to the mobile clinic. She personally recruited local psychiatrists to volunteer their time and secured a $10,000 grant from the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation for her program, Hearts and Minds.
The UCLA Mobile Clinic will begin offering mental health services later this year, and Tehrani plans to take a year off to work with Hearts and Minds before applying to medical schools.
The La Jolla native was also an active member of the Jewish community at UCLA. As the education chair of UCLA's Hillel, Tehrani organized a weekly program called, "Pizza and Pluralism."
"I invited Jewish leaders, professors and rabbis from different Jewish backgrounds and denominations to speak on a variety of topics related to Judaism," she said. "The goal was to bring Jews from varying backgrounds together."
Tehrani said her Jewish identity has influenced her zeal for community service.
"Judaism provides a really strong basis for a socially conscious lifestyle," she said. "Many of the philosophies that are important to me and that inspire me are also important in Judaism, like tikkun olam, repairing the world."
"She doesn't just want a better world," said Meg Sullivan, a UCLA spokeswoman, "[she] is actively pursuing one."
In addition to her work with the Mobile Health Clinic and Hillel, Tehrani took on a full course load, worked as a tutor and as editor of UCLA's student-run Undergraduate Science Journal and volunteered for the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Crisis Hotline. This was in addition to her work with the Casa Heiwa and Angelina Mentorship Project and the Undergraduate Genomics Research Initiative. She was also named a Mahatma Gandhi Scholar.
Tehrani's plate was full at UCLA, so she says the key to managing her time was to be passionate about her activities.
"It helps to devote my time to things I genuinely enjoy doing and not constantly doing things that I feel I should be doing for some other reason," she said.
"That way, if I have to sleep less, I won't mind so much, because my time will be spent doing something worthwhile. It's impossible to get bored."