Laura Rau, a second-year student at the University of Rochester's School of Medicine and Dentistry, has been awarded a 2002-2003 grant from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The grant, which covers round-trip travel and tuition and provides a stipend for living and other expenses, will allow Rau to spend nine months of study in India starting this fall.
While in India, Rau will research the systemization of Siddha medicine, a traditional medicine of South India's Tamil people that includes alchemical, botanical, and zoological preparations made from local materials.
Rau will study how Siddha has rapidly transformed from a variety of oral folk traditions into a college-taught medical system with standard practices, textbooks, and governmental regulation. Rau, who will be affiliated with India's Gandhigram Rural Institute, will interview those involved in creating the "new" Siddha, including students and faculty of colleges where Siddha is taught. She will work to record a history of the reinvention of Siddha.
As an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, Rau spent a year abroad in India researching Siddha and working as an apprentice to a Siddha practitioner. She wrote an honors thesis on her initial investigations. Rau was enrolled in the University's Rochester Early Medical Scholars (REMS) program, which assures admission to the medical school for exceptionally talented students. She received her bachelor's degree in religion in May of 2000.
The Fulbright program was established by Congress 56 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. It is named for its sponsor, the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright.