University of Louisville Medical Students Crowned 2024 Derby Princess and Queen

Posted on April 18, 2024
University of Louisville Medical Students Crowned 2024 Derby Princess and Queen

ULSOM students, Ankita Nair and Sarah Downs, part of the KDF Royal Court 2024

The Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court, a prestigious tradition in the state of Kentucky, not only emphasizes the glamour and elegance associated with the revered Kentucky Derby but also symbolizes a commitment to community engagement and personal growth. Two medical students from the University of Louisville School of Medicine were named Derby Princesses for the 2024 Kentucky Derby Festival. Ankita Nair, a third-year medical student, and Sarah Downs, a second-year medical student, were selected to represent the commonwealth.

The role of a Derby Princess embodies a unique blend of community engagement, tradition, and personal growth. Nair and Downs are both proud Kentucky natives and exemplify a deep-rooted connection to their community by embracing the rich traditions of the Kentucky Derby Festival.

Nair, a proud California-Kentuckian, embodies a strong connection to her roots, having divided her life between Louisville and San Diego. Her passion for community service and promoting preventative health initiatives shines through her involvement in the Kentucky Derby Festival. As a previous competitor in Miss Kentucky, she leverages her platform to educate and promote healthy lifestyle habits through her initiative "Let's Live Kentucky." Moreover, her involvement as a medical student demonstrates a holistic approach to her future career, combining academic pursuits with a deep commitment to community well-being.

Similarly, Downs believes being a Derby Princess allows her to serve her community and develop robust communication skills essential for her career as a physician. Her eagerness to connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds reflects in her understanding of others' stories and perspectives. Downs aspires to be a bridge between the local community and the global visitors who converge upon Kentucky during the Derby festivities.

Both Nair and Downs demonstrate a keen understanding of the significance of their roles as Derby Princesses. Their enthusiasm for the program is palpable as they share their eagerness to connect with people across various neighborhoods, support community initiatives, and contribute to the greater celebrations of Kentucky's traditions. Nair’s desire to engage with local businesses, volunteer in the West End, and bring attention to the diverse festivities symbolizes a deep commitment to community engagement. Similarly, Downs’s focus on impacting Kentucky’s youth and instilling in them the belief of pursuing one's dreams illustrates her dedication to inspiring and uplifting the next generation.

The experiences and aspirations of Nair and Downs exemplify the transformative impact of the Derby Princess role on their personal and professional development. Nair highlights how the role has equipped her with valuable time management, public speaking, and civic leadership skills, crucial for achieving a balance between professional endeavors and community engagement. Conversely, Downs emphasizes the role's contribution to refining her empathy and organizational skills, essential qualities for her future as a physician.

The attachment of Downs to the Kentucky Derby Festival, and her admiration for the Fillies and the Festival organizers, underlines the profound impact of these institutions on the social, cultural, and historical fabric of Kentucky. “We have some of the richest traditions here in our state and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to experience these traditions firsthand,” said Downs.

Nair’s admiration for the historical traditions of the Derby Festival highlights the significance of these organizations in uplifting the community and preserving Kentucky's traditions. “We started the Kentucky Derby 150 years ago and while many things have changed, the Derby continues to be a constant symbol of the rich history of Kentucky,” said Nair. “The Derby reminds me we have the grandson of Lewis and Clark to thank for the first running; that agriculture and horse farming have been and will always be something to be proud of; that steamboats like the Belle of Louisville tell the story of how Louisville came to be: first as a port city for Westward Expansion and now as a global UPS hub. The Kentucky Derby is a meaningful event that quintessentially shows our home to the rest of the world and is also something that we cherish here locally with all our festival events and traditions.”

As dedicated medical students and future healthcare professionals, they embody the essence of holistic engagement, combining academic pursuits with a commitment to community service and cultural celebration. Their dedication to embracing the Kentucky Derby Festival's traditions and uplifting the local community resonates as a testament to the enduring legacy of the Derby Princess program and its impact on shaping future leaders and advocates for social good.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine is proud of both Nair and Downs’ commitment to their academic pursuits and community engagement. Congratulations to Ankita Nair on being named the Derby Queen for the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby!