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Current Scholars

Charu Balamurugan

Class of: 2025
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
School: College of Arts and Science
Major(s): Medicine, Health, and Society; Molecular and Cellular Biology

Charu has always been drawn to interdisciplinary pursuits that combine art and science, tradition and innovation, unknown and familiar. This journey began with weekly piano lessons from when she was 6 years old. From semi-annual recitals to yearly state examinations, the piano became a chore, the opposite of the creative outlet it later assumed. Channeling the perspective that this instrument had given her into imaginative music composition and arrangement, Charu began to view music as an unparalleled individual release: a vessel for mental wellness. As a result, she founded a community organization, Music for Milestones (MFM;, that combines free piano lessons and wellness activities for underserved youth through a $5,000 grant from the Dragon Kim Foundation (DKF) Fellowship program and now continues MFM alongside the DKF Music Program after fundraising over $3,000By working with music therapists specializing in child development and pediatricians using music in their own clinical practices, Charu created an original curriculum teaching young children to fully utilize the piano as a mechanism to improve their mental health from the very beginning of their music education 


She has received national recognition for MFM from The Washington Post and The Kelly Clarkson Show, among others. As a result, she has been able to expand MFM across the country, garnering support from national and local sponsors. She now continues MFM in partnership with various institutions within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)This organization was a realization of Charu’s uniquely intersectional view of personalized and creative well-beingAfter volunteering at the UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center, achieving district-level LAUSD awards for UNICEF advocacy, and receiving Girl Up STEM for Social Good GrantsCharu constantly desires to improve our understanding of intangible healthcare and, at the same time, increase accessibility of this knowledge to women of color in medicine 


Moreover, Charu currently delves into the field of precision medicine as it relates to community engagement at the Scripps Research Translational Institute as part of the NIH’s All of Us research program. She is helping pilot a Digital Trials Center Certificate Program to effectively improve and measure participation recruitment, enrollment, and retention. This provides her with a well-rounded understanding of ways to mobilize diverse populations towards improved health outcomes on a national scale, something that is especially important considering the global health crises experienced over the past year. Charu is extremely grateful for the guidance of the Ingram Scholars Program at Vanderbilt University with which she hopes to expand her knowledge of improving human wellness through societal innovation along a multifaceted pre-medicine pathway.