Charles Shofner, Team Captain
Charles grew up in a town of approximately 5,000 people, located in the heart of rural Kentucky; his life has been a mixture of small town living and international exploring. He obtained his undergraduate degrees in Biology and Psychology from the University of Louisville, where he remained for medical school. Currently a third year medical student, he is interested in pursuing a Combined Internal Medicine & Pediatrics residency in preparation of one day combining patient care, academics, service, and global health for all ages. While not answering endless practice questions, Charles enjoys watching classic movies, exploring new restaurants, and planning his next travel adventure.
Gabriella Niestrath, Team Member
Gabriella, although born in the United Kingdom, spent most of her younger years living throughout the United States. She became interested in global health in high school, and that desire was confirmed when she spent a semester abroad working in a clinic in rural southern Zambia. Having majored in Spanish, she has since been on several medical trips to South and Central America where that passion has been further ignited. She is currently a third year at University if Louisville School of Medicine and enjoys her time outside of studying either hiking, running, or ice skating.
Preston Simmons, Team Member
Preston grew up in the small town of Mayfield, KY surrounded by miles of corn fields and farms. He moved off to the big city and attended the University of Louisville for his undergraduate education where he fell in love with the local restaurants, parks, and coffee shops. His undergraduate tenure was also where he began his love for global health, embarking on trips to both Guatemala and Costa Rica. He currently attends the University of Louisville School of Medicine where he drinks entirely way too much coffee on his quest to become a Pediatrician. On the weekends you can find him at a local brewery or shopping at Trader Joe’s, more than likely both.
Makayla Uebelhor, Team Member
Makayla hails from the true heart of Kentucky, Lexington, where endless rolling hills and horse farms abound as far as the eye can see. She attended the University of Louisville where she received her undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in Spanish. She began with the desire for a career in medicine and furthered that while there through coursework, extracurriculars, and service trips. Makayla remained at the University of Louisville where she is a third-year medical student. In between rotations at the hospital and evenings full of studying, she enjoys exploring Louisville cuisine, sand volleyball in the summertime, and movie nights with her friends.
Enclosed on all sides by green tarps that serve as temporary walls, the smoke of pinion wood slowly fills the room, repelling the mosquito’s piercing needles. Across from us, a young Ecuadorian woman sits with her exhausted four-year-old child, his eyes sunken and mouth arid. Statements that our family members emphatically told us before we embarked on a TIMMY Global Health Brigade to the Amazon Basin flooded our minds and left us feeling dejected. “You’re going to do great things there and make such a difference.” These phrases have a strange ability to fill you with false confidence before embarking. Only after arriving, do you uncover their fallacious validity. As we sat there, speaking to the mom about signs of dehydration whilst sipping out own overfull water bottle, did the truth finally reveal itself. Hypocrisy stings far worse than any mosquito.
We as a society so often romanticizes global health. For the vast majority of the public, “global health” has become synonymous with short term “voluntourism” group trips which constantly try to apply a band aid to the world health problems. TIMMY attempts to redefine the definition of health brigade, a definition that is founded on sustainability, community partnerships, and cultural sensitivity. The best way to leave a lasting impact after the volunteer’s leave is to create a system where communities still have access to care, education, and support. One of the best ways to do this is through community partnerships and support of local organizations. For many “global health” is about how can we come in and help, instead we should be asking who is already there helping & how can we assist. Focusing on community organizations helps to provide long term care, economic stability, and patient trust.
Furthermore, for communities served by health brigades, we feel there should be an individual who is on the ground continuing the mission. An individual with healthcare knowledge capable of continuing education and providing follow-ups: BP checks, glucose monitoring, suture removal, etc. Global health is not solely albendazole for parasitic infections, it’s also metformin for diabetes and ACE inhibitors for HTN. Continuous on the ground individuals can supplement medical treatment with culturally sensitive education once volunteers leave. There must be a system in place where the care provided does not leave with the brigade. Someone once told us that diseases know no country borders, but treatments often do. We argue this idea can be expanded, that those who participate in short term trips often take more than they give, from practicing clinical skills to self-validation. The best way to be cognizant of this is to choose programs carefully. To all considering global health experiences, look for programs that places value on education, preventive medicine, community support, and the ability to refer to specialties.
Reality displaces romanticism in global health. As global healthcare needs evolve, so must organizations. Is your definition of global health immersion evolving or will you continue to be stung by the mosquito of ignorance.