We are excited for you to meet one of our top advocates from Georgia, Suhaas Reddy Bonkur and learn what motivates him as an advocate.
Hello everyone! I am Suhaas Reddy Bonkur, a first-year student at the Georgia Institute of Technology studying a major in Biology and minoring in computer science. I am interested in public health and the medical sciences and would like to pursue a future career that intertwines these two passions.
I began getting involved with the American Heart Association and You’re the Cure through the Tobacco Endgame initiative while I was in high school. Tobacco Endgame is an initiative that empowers young individuals and adults to say no to nicotine and tobacco products because of their harmful effects and addictive nature. It was through this grassroots initiative that I was able to meet some other amazing and unique advocates that eventually introduced me to heart/cardiovascular health.
My first project was to help recruit other advocates to join Tobacco Endgame. Then I got involved with some of the other policy work happening in my state and am now a member of the Georgia State Advocacy Committee. In this role I am getting to know other advocates from across the state and learn about other important issues like improving access to health care and making sure all workers are protected from secondhand smoke while at work.
I have grown up with a family that has a history of diabetes. Finding ways to prevent issues and diseases matters most to me because in many cases, the solution for them can be easily implemented and is built upon small healthier changes in lifestyle. In addition, heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, so concerns and initiatives to address this epidemic must be taken seriously and promptly.
I am proud of being the first one in my direct community to be involved with taking care of cardiovascular health through lifestyle interventions and “No Tobacco” advocacy. Within a few months, I was able to inform my friends and family, and coming into college I was able to initiative and participate in clubs with this same drive. It has been rewarding to be able to take inspiration from other individuals in the American Heart Association and be able to be a role model for new members I was able to recruit. I am also extremely grateful for the opportunities to use my voice to help bring about change by serving as a youth representative for the national Tobacco Endgame and a panelist at a few public policy meetings and webinars sharing about my work as a youth advocate.
This journey has taught me a lot so far. It was surprising to me how getting involved with You’re the Cure has helped me with other aspects of my life. As an advocate, honing my skills in clearly explaining my ideas and viewpoints has helped improve my communication and leadership skills in other recreational clubs as I learned to be clear with my motives and directions.
Something else I didn’t expect was how as an advocate you become part of the network and the family of fellow advocates you get to know through your journey. Before participating in You’re the Cure, I definitely had a preconceived notion that advocacy was very individualized and was based on one or a few voices, but after being involved with You’re the Cure I learned just how important a community of individuals is who hold the same viewpoint and thinking.
As I look ahead to my future, I definitely intend to continue as an advocate throughout my life and work with the American Heart Association because I am interested in preventative medicine and cardiovascular care access advocacy. As of right now in my studies, I am currently on the pre-med track, and I intend to stay engaged as an involved member of my You’re the Cure Community and hope to continue to recruit others by perhaps reaching out to community college students.
In closing, my message to other advocates is, “you can only get so far as a lone star, but form a constellation of people, and the sky’s the limit.”
Learn more about the Tobacco Endgame here.