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Advancing Global Health:
Award helps VCU medical students lay foundations for global health careers

By: V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
Phone: (804) 828-3636 

RICHMOND, Va. (June 5, 2014)—For many students, summer is a time to slow down. But for three Virginia Commonwealth University medical students, this summer is a time to forge ahead and begin laying foundations for their careers in global health.

Aided by Global Health Awards from the VCU Global Education Office, rising second year medical students Aditi Sharma, Kunal Kapoor and Nehal Naik will pursue international academic experiences in the area of global health. This newly established award is designed to enhance the recruitment of students into global health research and practice careers by providing them the means to attain international cross-cultural field experiences.

“Global health is a growing priority both around the world and here at VCU,” said R. McKenna Brown, Ph.D., Global Education Office executive director. “By providing these international experiences for our students, we’re helping prepare the experts who will be equipped to solve the problems of the 21st century. We’re so pleased to partner with academic units like the VCU School of Medicine to accomplish this.”

Aditi Sharma, who is a native of Irvine, Ca., graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering in 2009. Her award will support her research on the costs of delaying care and extending lengths of stay for trauma patients at University Teaching Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda.

“This award is especially meaningful as it will give me the opportunity to pursue my research interests and find my niche within the global health community,” she said.  

Refining her focus within the field of global health stems from Sharma’s previous experiences working at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, DC, the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and the Public Health Foundation of India in New Delhi, India. “These opportunities inspired my interest in global health and further motivated me to take the skills I’ve gained as a medical student and apply them to improving health outcomes on a global scale,” she said.

“Specifically, this scholarship will allow me to better understand how care is delivered in resource-constrained settings and how research can be conducted systematically to contribute to improving patient care, despite those constraints.”

Kunal Kapoor is a native of Suffolk, Va. who received his bachelor’s degree from VCU in religious studies in 2012. His award will support his participation in the Global Health Delivery Summer Intensive at the Harvard School of Public Health. Through this program, Kapoor will “gain a better understanding of how successful approaches in global health delivery can empower communities and reduce health disparities,” he said.

On a personal level, Kapoor hopes to broaden his perspective on how, through his career, he might begin to play a role in tackling some of the complex issues surrounding global health delivery. 

Nehal Naik, a native of Santa Barbara, Ca., received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010 in molecular and cell biology. Naik’s award willsupport his research that seeks to critically assess the systemic barriers to EMS and hospital communication for emergency care in Ecuador.

Naik’s research, which will take place in Cuenca, Ecuador from June 10-July 15, will allow him to work collaboratively with medical students in the region. “I look forward to collaborating with our partners in the Pan-American Trauma Society to create a long-term sustainable project that will improve trauma care within Ecuador,” he said. “Ultimately, I eagerly anticipate cultivating friendships and building lasting partnerships.”

The Global Health Award is given to 3-6 VCU students annually. For more information, visit

Aditi Sharma
Aditi Sharma

Kunal Kapoor Kunal Kapoor

 Nehal Naik Nehal Naik 

By: V. Renee Russell
Global Education Office
(804) 828-3636

Richmond, Va. (Dec. 6, 2013)— More than 30 VCU Globe students gathered in the fireside lounge of the new West Grace North Residence Hall with VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. last Wednesday night to discuss topics ranging from increasing engagement with international students on campus to ensuring safe working conditions in factories around the world.

Much of the conversation focused on the ways this inaugural group of students can contribute to shaping the program for future cohorts. Rao suggested that as students identify priorities and set goals, the program will become one that “truly represents is a vision to expand diversity beyond domestic concepts to embrace a more international sense of diversity.”

Rao highlighted the significant value Globe students currently contribute to VCU through their roles as mentors to international students.  “I can talk about VCU’s commitment to inclusiveness, but what really matters are the meaningful relationships that are developed,” he said. “There is so much to learn from people who are different from us.”

According to program director Jill Blondin, VCU Globe students have many opportunities to mentor international students.  “Each semester, our students complete at least 10 hours of globally-engaged service, which include volunteering as conversation partners, orienting international students to the VCU Library, and designing and leading interactive workshops that address American culture,” she said.

Criminal justice major Jessica Alonso described a recent workshop held in November just before the Thanksgiving holiday. “We were able to explain how some American holidays have evolved, which provided insight into why U.S. holidays are the way they are,” she said. Earlier this semester, Globe students organized a workshop designed to help international students to make greater social connections while in the U.S.

The group also discussed specific global issues that students in the program have begun to rally behind.  Mass communications and psychology major Cydni Gordon explained that, in November, students met two workers from Alta Gracia, a living-wage factory in the Dominican Republic. Since the encounter, the group has begun to campaign for VCU to become affiliated with the Worker’s Rights Consortium, an organization that monitors working conditions in factories around the world. Gordon explained that seven universities in the A-10 conference are currently affiliated with the organization. Globe students are currently working with VCU Business Services to pursue this affiliation, and Rao said he appreciated being informed about the initiative.

In addition to ideas specific to Globe, Rao shared with students the university’s future plans to expand common spaces around campus and plans for the next living-learning program which will focus on leadership.

The VCU Globe program is now accepting applications for the 2014 academic year. First-year students are eligible to apply. 

President Rao, VCU Globe students meet for “fireside chat”  Students discussed the different aspects of VCU Globe with President Rao at Wednesday’s fireside chat. 

Globe students and President Rao Jessica Alonso, a criminal justice major, shared how Globe students have been working with international students at VCU. 

President Rao, VCU Globe students meet for “fireside chat”  Cydni Gordon, a mass communications and psychology major, shared students’ interest in living wage and safe working conditions in factories around the world.

Globe students and Dr. Rao meet and discuss VCU Globe students with President Rao. 

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