Make Your Mark: Dave Prakash on Embracing Connectedness with Ourselves and Each Other

“When you live as you are, without fear, hesitation, or doubt… you can make room in your life for people that are very different from you” — Dave Prakash, 2017 Tillman Scholar

Our Make Your Mark series, powered by the NFL, showcases the global impact of the Tillman Scholars who are writing the story of a better future. In these videos, they share their works of humble leadership and service across both public and private sectors.

In his talk, originally presented at the 2021 Tillman Honors, 2017 Tillman Scholar Dave Prakash reflects on the role that connectedness played in his journey to understand who he is — and the reasons why we all need to embrace finding connectedness with ourselves and each other.

Dave was a medical student living in Washington, D.C. when he experienced the attacks of 9/11. As an immigrant from India, the terrorist attacks on his adopted country resonated deeply. He resigned from his medical residency training to commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. Dave entered pilot training to serve in a combat role and became a bomber pilot.

Dave served in the B-52. His unique perspective as aviator and physician served him well as an operational test pilot. Dave tested new weapons and systems that increased the lethality of the venerable bomber. As a flight surgeon, he never lost sight of the human element as he cared for the same people that served beside him. He fought to improve the human-machine interface in future bomber platforms and initiated a program to modernize B-52 ejection seats that will save lives and reduce life-cycle costs.

Dave Prakash left a career as a doctor to join the Air Force as a pilot after 9/11. He served 13 years on active duty, becoming an operational test pilot and flight surgeon. Dave left the Air Force in 2017 and became a Tillman Scholar, attending Stanford University. He studied business management and public policy for 2 years. Today, Dave works on artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology in healthcare and on future aerospace systems. In his free time, Dave advises early-stage companies and serves on the board of WomenHeart. He mentors anyone that asks (and many who didn’t) and likes to explore unusual ideas. Dave has two wonderful teenage sons. And his wife, Naomi, continues to tolerate his perpetual career changes despite 20 years of marriage.