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When It's a Win-Win

A first-generation alumna recalls how the Duke Women’s Impact Network shaped her path to medical school and beyond

“What more can we do?” is a question Sweta Kafle ’21 remembers Duke alumna Bridget Booher ’82, A.M.’92 asking Kafle during her senior year at Duke.

Kafle had casually mentioned she was studying for the MCAT, and Booher, the director of the Duke Women’s Impact Network, wanted to help.

Soon after, Kafle was surprised to receive a bunch of study guides and textbooks.

“It was such a supportive gesture,” Kafle says. “Things like that really stick out to me when I think about what the program is about.”

The Women’s Impact Network (WIN) is a philanthropic community of Duke women who have made an investment of at least $100,000 in lifetime cumulative support toward the future of Duke. (WIN has lower membership thresholds for younger alumnae.) WIN’s volunteer leaders provided the seed money to establish the WIN Scholars Endowment, and more than 100 donors from both the WIN and wider Duke communities have contributed gifts large and small to the growing endowment. WIN scholars are selected by Duke’s financial aid office, with an eye toward those who could benefit from the extra support and encouragement of the WIN community.

Kafle was named a WIN Scholar in 2020, along with other students who demonstrate leadership potential. The scholarships provide partial financial aid for the students and connect them to a dedicated community of Duke alumnae, Booher says.

“Each scholar has their own individual dreams and personal goals,” she says, “Our WIN community is tremendously supportive of financial aid as a way to ‘pay it back, pay it forward,’ and having a personal connection to students like Sweta resonates with women who want to see the direct impact of their gifts and help the next generation of leaders thrive.”

Kafle’s aspirations and interests have always included being in the medical field, but her tie to Duke isn’t far behind. Originally from Nepal, Kafle remembers the first time she heard of Duke was when her mom watched a video that featured a Nepali Duke professor. Inspired by the immense pride she felt, Kafle applied to Duke once college application season rolled around and went on to become a premed student and both a WIN scholar and a David M. Rubenstein scholar, part of a prestigious, merit-based scholar’s program.

While at Duke, Kafle connected with other current and former WIN scholars, many of whom were pursuing careers in the medical field themselves, as well as Duke alumnae from diverse careers and personal backgrounds.

“We’d listen to a lot of women on WIN panels talk about how they got to where they are, so it was pretty inspiring to be in a room like that,” she says.

Today, Kafle is a medical student at the University of Cincinnati. This past summer, she travelled to Tanzania and Kenya for a dental project sponsored by Cincinnati’s global health program. While she is still narrowing down what type of doctor she wants to be, Kafle credits Duke’s extensive global health programs and WIN’s support for inspiring her to continue her interest in medicine.

“The resources available at Duke and through WIN have helped me to be where I am now,” she says.