Portrait by Danny Fulgencio.

Greenhill School senior Maya Desai, an aspiring cognitive scientist, first experienced the healthcare world during the summer of 2016, when she and four other girls teamed up to create a nonprofit that benefits refugees. 

DFW Hub Center for Health hosts annual health fairs for Bhutanese refugees, equips families with health-care kits and fundraises to provide free health services to refugees. The nonprofit organization has also helped refugee children obtain school supplies.

Maya, 18, and her cofounders first realized a need for their nonprofit when they were introduced to the refugee community through Sunday school. 

“The first thing we realized is they didn’t have easy access to health care,” Maya says. The girls, who were all interested one way or another in health, decided to create the organization.

The annual health fairs reach between 30 and 50 refugees. Often, the attendees are repeat customers.

While planning a health fair will complicate Maya’s college workload, she plans to continue to work with the organization while attending the University of California at San Diego. 

“It’s been a really rewarding experience,” she says. “It’s not something most people get to do.”

But it’s an experience that fits her personality, described as ambitious with a calm demeanor by Treavor Kendall, Maya’s mentor and Greenhill’s Upper School Science Department chair. Maya has always had a willingness to serve, he says. 

“She is self-motivated, with a passion for learning and achieving,” Kendall says. “She is always searching for a new challenge.”

But, Maya wasn’t always an aspiring cognitive scientist. She gained interest in the field when she suffered three concussions in four years. All the concussions were caused by headers in soccer. Doctors told Maya to stop playing. She soon developed an interest in the brain and how concussions and other injuries affect it.  

Maya also believes cognitive science would be a more lucrative field of work than her other passion: photography. She took every photography class offered at Greenhill, starting with the beginner’s photography elective. 

“I like it because it’s powerful,” Maya says. “It’s another way to communicate without using words.”

Maya plans to continue photography as a hobby and might take some classes at college, she says. But it won’t be a priority. “I’ve always thought about doing a job in science.”

Photos by Maya Desai. 

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.