Editor’s note: This story was submitted by Boston College.
Hariharan “Harry” Shanmugam of Hopkinton, a member of the Boston College Class of 2021, was presented with the university’s most prestigious graduation honor at commencement on May 24: the Edward H. Finnegan, S.J., Award, given to the graduating senior who best exemplifies Boston College’s motto, “Ever to Excel.” He was chosen for this honor out of a class of some 2,200 students.
Shanmugam, a 2017 graduate of Xaverian High School in Westwood, is the son of Shanmugam Bavanantham and Tamil Shanmugam of Hopkinton.
Shanmugam’s undergraduate years at Boston College reflect a stellar academic record combined with published research and advocacy work to advance public health. He graduated summa cum laude from BC’s Carroll School of Management with a concentration in accounting for finance and consulting and a major in biology. He is a member of Alpha Sigma Nu, the honor society of Jesuit colleges and universities, and Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business honor society.
He was a member of an interdisciplinary team of more than 40 scientists from 18 countries who developed a major report on “Human Health and Ocean Pollution.” Shanmugam worked with Boston College Global Public Health director Philip Landrigan, M.D., and scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to develop a case study of the health and economic benefits that resulted from the Boston Harbor restoration. He was a contributing author to a paper from the study that was published in Annals of Global Health.
Said Landrigan, “Harry’s background in management and accounting enabled him to contribute uniquely to this endeavor by computing the return on investment from the Boston Harbor cleanup, information that is of critical importance to policy makers who need to understand that the large upfront costs of a major environmental restoration such as the Boston Harbor cleanup can be recovered many times over through such benefits as the rebuilding of fish and shellfish stocks, increased tourism, and improvement in human health and well-being.”
“[Harry] is thoughtful, caring and deeply committed to making the world a better place,” said Landrigan, who was the advisor for Shanmugam’s senior honors thesis, which looked at the role socioeconomic status and race played in the COVID-19 vaccine coverage in Massachusetts.
Shanmugam spent the summer of 2019 in Mexico as a research fellow for the National Institute for Public Health. He conducted research, in Spanish, on dietary fiber intake and urinary creatinine. He was primary author of an article about the study that was published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
He also conducted research for BC School of Social Work Associate Professor Summer Hawkins, where he analyzed a dataset to determine the effects of state pharmaceutical regulations on adolescent drug misuse. He is first author of a manuscript currently out for review.
“BC is where I developed my passion for science,” said Shanmugam. “Biology at BC is such a comprehensive, deep dive into science. It’s such a cool major. One of my favorite classes was biological chemistry — an insanely hard class — but it completely changed the way I think about causality, about the way the world works. The story of BC, for me, has been this awakening of a love for science.”
Shanmugam put his interest in public health into action through his service and policy work on behalf of the HIV/AIDS community in Boston.
Since 2018, he has served on Boston’s Ryan White Planning Council, where he chairs a committee that identifies needs in the local HIV/AIDS community and allocates millions in federal funding to support that population. He also is a member of the Boston Public Health Commission, where he led the development of a care linkage program that aims to shorten the time from HIV diagnosis to outreach from a care provider from weeks or months to 48 hours. He also represents the commission on the steering committee for the state’s Ending the HIV Epidemic in Massachusetts initiative.
Shanmugam’s on-campus extracurricular activities include serving as co-president of the Student Health Equity Forum, which educates students about public health issues through discussions, guest speakers, case competitions, applied public health projects, and a partnership with a grassroots public health organization in Tamil Nadu, India. He also was vice president of Model UN and volunteered with the Office of Undergraduate Admission.
On the horizon for Shanmugam is a job with Boston Consulting Group, where he will work on projects in the areas of health care and social impact practice. He also is applying to medical school.
“Every single day at BC taught me more and more about who I am, what I value, and the person I want to become. BC gave me confidence and a license to dream big. But, it would not be possible without the friends that made this place home and the professors who wanted to see me succeed.”