Bhavan Panghali


Bhavan Panghali

Alumna (Class of 2016)


Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences

Bachelor of Science (BSc)

Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)

Merritt, BC

“You should lead in what you are passionate about, not in what is expected of you.”



Bhavan’s Story

Pushor Mitchell Award-winner Bhavan Panghali achieved what she set out to, gaining knowledge both inside and outside of the classroom

FOR BHAVAN PANGHALI, going to university in Kelowna required almost no decision-making. The way was paved by her two older sisters, both of whom attended UBC Okanagan.

Why Microbiology?

“When it came to my time to choose where I would attend university, the choice was easy,” Panghali says. “I enjoyed visiting Kelowna and the campus so much that it was clear I should continue with the family tradition.

“I have always understood the reputation of UBC to be exceptional with high-achieving science and research,” she says, adding that UBC Okanagan has provided everything she hoped to get out of a university.

“This campus truly provides big university opportunity within a small campus community, and in one of the most beautiful and adventurous areas in BC.”


The smaller size of the Okanagan campus made it easy for Panghali to build relationships with professors. “Going into first year, I never thought I would comfortably walk into my professor’s office, have him or her know me by first name, and talk to them about their day.”

Not only is Panghali thankful for the one-on-one opportunities with professors, she also considers herself fortunate to have met one professor in particular. “(Biology) professor Richard Plunkett is a great resource,” she says. “His dedication to help inside and outside of class has gone above and beyond, including assistance in helping with planning the first Okanagan Relay for Life, and with scholarship applications.”

Panghali credits her involvement with Campus Life in the First Year Experience Program to her becoming a peer mentor. She now gives back by helping new UBC students with their transitions to university.

“This experience has opened my eyes to the diversity of students on this campus. I continue to meet so many people with such unique backgrounds, and I get to form friendships with individuals I would never meet anywhere else.”


The Canadian Cancer Society is dear to Panghali’s heart. In her first year, she helped create the UBC Okanagan Cancer Fighter’s Club. It is dedicated to promoting cancer awareness and prevention, and to connecting students with the Canadian Cancer Society for volunteer opportunities. “By creating this club, I was able to foster my own passion, and share it.”

“The courses offered in the Microbiology program have sparked my interest in cancer awareness,” Panghali says. “Courses such as Immunology and Virology have allowed me to further my research, particularly oncologic-related research.”

In a summer research student position at the BC Cancer Agency, she implemented an online platform to follow cancer survivors in order to gain a better understanding of the effects of treatments associated with the disease.

The combination of experiences she’s had while studying at UBC Okanagan is guiding Panghali towards pursuing a career in pediatric medicine.

“I am confident thanks to the inspiration provided by many mentors, including my sisters, that I can combine and channel my greatest passions in one rewarding career: understanding the sciences of diseases and promoting patient-centered care.”


In 2016, prior to graduation, Panghali received the largest undergraduate award given to an Okanagan student—the $10,000 Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

She plans to use her Pushor Mitchell award towards medical school tuition when she applies in 2018.

In addition to outstanding academic achievement, the Pushor Mitchell prize is also based on demonstrated leadership. For Panghali, leadership comes in a lot of different forms.

“Leadership takes a lot of courage,” she says. “You should lead in what you are passionate about, not in what is expected of you. You can’t be afraid to be the first or only one. Leading is an important role, but so is supporting. We all need supporters.”

James Paterson, managing partner at Pushor Mitchell LLP, says the firm is proud to support Panghali through the award.

“Strong leadership is at the core of healthy, vibrant communities. We at Pushor Mitchell believe that Bhavan has demonstrated her leadership skills admirably” says Paterson. “The firm is happy to support her as she furthers her education and career and grows into an even stronger community leader.”