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Athena Podcast Series: Young Athena Finalist Bhavini Patel

Interview by Jonathan Kersting

Athena Awards Podcast Series

In this episode of the UPMC Health Plan Athena Podcast we talk to Bhavini Patel, Founder of BeamData. Bhavini Patel’s relationship-building spirit and systems-thinking approach are valuable abilities; but what makes these traits so powerful is her commitment to forge actionable solutions and pay it forward by mentoring 
other women. 

Discover more about Bhavini

One of the most compelling illustrations of this is how she uses her journey as a female founder to encourage and guide other women pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and technology. Patel is CEO & Co-founder of beamdata—a mission-driven civic tech startup dedicated to improving access to local government through its Be the Change app. She has a nuanced personal and professional knowledge of the problems people face in participating in the political system. As the first South Asian woman to run for Allegheny County Council, she had a well-researched understanding of barriers associated with civic engagement such as knowing your elected representatives, registering to vote and completing the Decennial Census.

This drove her to build intentional relationships, think critically and take results-oriented action. Patel has been invited to coordinate various workshops to encourage young women in STEM, including the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering Female Empowerment Mission (FEM) program, and she thoughtfully prioritizes time to mentor women pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and technology. While maintaining a commitment to give back to her community, Patel led beamdata to various successes, including creating data-driven tools for the Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh Complete Count Committee to achieve a complete count and fair economic representation. In recognition of her mission-oriented founder journey, Patel was recognized as a Next City Vanguard, 30 Under 30 by The Pittsburgh Business Times, Who’s Next: Politics by The Incline, Western PA Rising Star by Get Involved!, Inc., and 40 Under 40 by Pittsburgh Magazine.

Throughout her studies, she demonstrated a commitment to investigating and taking action on some of our most pressing social challenges. Patel conducted independent community-based research on refugee resettlement and Swahili language at the University of Dar es Salaam and State University of Zanzibar. She later applied her research regionally by working with Somali Bantu refugees and the Mayor’s Deputy Director of Immigration and Welcoming Initiatives to understand barriers to refugee resettlement and access to health care. I

n 2016, she took a year off to continue local public health advocacy work. In 2017, she was accepted to the University of Oxford as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar, but remained a strong advocate while abroad as a volunteer digital organizer for the Edgewood Democratic Committee and Co-founder of beamdata. Upon her return, she joined the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh as a Board Member to offer insight on refugee resettlement. She is currently a Board Member of Civically Inc.—a non-profit that organizes the Free Store Wilkinsburg and Second Generation, an organization dedicated to helping elect first-generation immigrants to political office across PA—and was recently appointed to the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board and the University of Pittsburgh Master of Quantitative Economics Advisory Board.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Area Studies, Sociology, & Africana Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s Degree in International Relations, Department of Politics and International Relations from the University of Oxford.