UT student chapter bridges gap between humanitarian work, Austin community

Saachi Subramaniam

Raising awareness for global crises, helping refugees and participating in humanitarian work are just some of the goals of UT’s chapter of Doctors Without Borders.

Through Doctors Without Borders at UT, students are given opportunities to engage in service that aids communities in Austin and in countries around the world. Members of the UT chapter are from a diverse array of disciplines that contribute to the overall fellowship of the organization, bridging skill sets from majors like history, public health and psychology. The chapter was founded in February 2018 and won won Best New Organization in UT’s 2019 Swing Out Awards.

Doctors Without Borders is an international nonprofit organization that represents a movement providing medical aid and relief to countries around the globe that need help the most. The UT student chapter of this organization recognizes the wide array of health-related organizations on campus and was established to advocate for global humanitarian dilemmas that previous campus organizations lacked.

Tejas Bommakanti, public health junior and co-president of the UT chapter, said the organization’s philosophy with advocacy is that if a group like theirs does health-related work with refugees around Austin and the broader Texas area, more students will be inspired to step in and serve the community.

“Our main three goals are service, advocacy and health,” Bommakanti said. “We serve local communities, we advocate for issues that are related to refugee and humanitarian service, and engage in health-related concepts to do with Doctors Without Borders as a whole.”

Bommakanti said the organization regularly volunteers at Casa Marianella, a shelter and halfway house for refugees seeking asylum in the United States. He said this work is some of the most rewarding service he has done while at UT.

“We volunteer on the weekends and help out people that may need financial, legal or health-related assistance,” Bommakanti said. “With our volunteer work, we also provide many opportunities and connections for our members with speakers from (Doctors Without Borders.)”


Sara Albanna, public health junior and volunteer coordinator of for the chapter, said she enjoys the personal connections fostered by working with refugees and asylum seekers.

“Personally, the organization has been really inspiring,” Albanna said. “It has opened up what the options are for how I can help the immigrant community and what I might want to pursue in the future with refugees and asylum seekers. ”

Albanna said the organization provides her opportunities to connect with the community, which is valuable experience for the work she wants to do after college.

“I’ve had experiences that seem more meaningful than what some other organizations might provide,” Albanna said. “At DWB at UT, you can establish a direct relationship with the people you are serving.”

Livia Frost, public health sophomore and co-president of the organization, said all members of the UT chapter share the same goal: to get involved in the community and contribute to Doctors Without Borders national mission in aiding those in conflict and crisis.

“(We have) a focused goal of helping the immigrant community and understanding the cultures that we meet,” Frost said. “The people that are in our organization have the same values of learning, engaging and taking part in community service.”