Medical Students for Global Health Equity

George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences

King Pascual, Team Captain

King PascualOriginally from the Philippines, King moved to the United States with his family when he was 11 years old. After graduating from a magnet high school for the health professions in South Texas, he attended Brown University where he would double major in Human Biology and Ethnic Studies. Personally inspired by the mission to end education inequity, he joined Teach for America after college and taught high school science in the Bronx for two years, while also obtaining a master’s degree in education. Interestingly, during his time teaching, he gravitated towards the field of mental health and started writing about self-care in publications such as The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

Eager to have a space where he can combine his interests in health, education, and wellness, he joined the highly selective Health for America fellowship in Washington, DC, where he piloted a stroke education and wellness startup for stroke survivors and their primary caregivers. Prior to matriculating to medical school at GW, he would work for another year as a healthcare instructional designer.

At GW, he serves in the wellness committee and holds a scholarly concentration in integrative medicine. Recently, King launched an award-winning sleep hygiene startup with a patent-pending device that promotes healthy sleeping habits. In his spare time, King enjoys exploring new jogging routes and asking Alexa to play his favorite throwback hits.

In the future, King hopes to go back to the Philippines and create novel public health initiatives using his interdisciplinary background in education, wellness advocacy, and healthcare innovation.

Michael Kotil, Team Member

Michael KotilMichael grew up in the lovely, yet hot, city of Miami. He was always fond of going to Japan, and it was due to his service in the Navy that he was able to fulfill his dream. Upon completion of his obligation to the Navy, he returned home where he would pursue a degree in music. It was his desire to utilize music therapeutically that motivated him to pursue such a degree. However, he realized that he wanted to have a more profound impact on one’s health, and thus, he began his journey to acquire a medical degree. Michael would go on to obtain a degree in biology from Florida International University before starting medical school. He is now a second year medical student studying at George Washington University School of Medicine. Although he spends most of his time studying, he also runs a music-oriented club where he and his peers have a creative outlet in order to unwind from the rigors of medical school. Michael is looking forward to getting out of the classroom and making a meaningful impact in a patient’s life as he gets closer to being on the wards.

Adam Munday, Team Member

Adam MundayAdam Munday is a medical student at George Washington University. Prior to GWU, Adam graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Kinesiology and completed the Special Master’s program at Georgetown University. Before pursuing medicine, he was a nationally competitive ice dancer. After retirement, he continued coaching for internationally and nationally competitive ice dance and synchronized skating teams. Adam is interested in Emergency Medicine and hopes to work in disaster and cyber medicine after medical school.

Andrew Palosaari, Team Member

Andrew PalosaariAndrew grew up along the coast in a suburb of Los Angeles, spending his free time engaged in outdoor activities including snorkeling, hiking, running, photography, and playing with his dog.

He obtained his undergraduate degree from UCLA in Human Biology and Society and is currently completing his second year as a medical student at George Washington University. On a typical weekend in DC, he scooters to a park, sets up his hammock, and studies. His last outdoor adventure was hiking in Great Falls Park along the Potomac River after scootering 14 miles from his apartment.

During his time at UCLA, he participated in several medical mission trips to Mexico and one to the Dominican Republic. These experiences showed him some of the challenges of providing medical care in developing countries. Now as a medical student, Andrew looks forward to expanding his global health experiences through medical mission trips that focus on providing a long-lasting impact to communities.

Bobby Vanmali, Team Member

Bobby VanmaliBobby was born in Toronto, Canada – and like most Canadians, participated in the typical Canadian sports like Hockey, Skiing, and Snowboarding. Before starting High School he moved to sunny Los Angeles California. He obtained his undergraduate degree from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), where started to develop his interest in medicine through working as a Critical Care transport EMT with UCLA hospital. He then went on to get a Masters in Physiology and biophysics from Georgetown University. He is currently a second year medical student at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in the heart of Washington D.C. He is very passionate about cooking, baking, yoga, and lifestyle medicine.

Team Essay

In the September 2019 issue of the AMA Journal of Ethics, global health scholars argued that immersion experiences “should be designed with the community’s needs in mind, preferably as identified by the community.” The authors also questioned the value of giving students direct patient care roles, noting that pivoting away from such roles may minimize student exposure to ethically questionable situations. Perhaps students, especially those without clinical training, should be assigned responsibilities that “focus more on health education, health systems, and population health.” In this essay, we would like to build upon these ideas by proposing the adoption of design thinking in global health curricula.

Design thinking, also known as human-centered design, is an evidence-based methodology that prioritizes empathy with users, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and feedbackreceptive iteration. The goal is to create a product or service by “working directly with the people who use the service or deliver the solution to develop new ideas that are viable and appropriate in their context” (UNICEF, 2018). Design thinking cycles through five stages: listening to users, defining the problem, ideating solutions, rapid prototyping, and testing for feedback.

But how exactly can we incorporate design thinking into volunteer experiences?

Picture a rising second-year medical student spending two weeks in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic. Her goal for the summer medical trip is to collaborate with an interdisciplinary group of U.S. student volunteers from diverse academic backgrounds such as public health, engineering, and Latin American studies. The team is mentored by faculty from the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, which has set up a partnership with their volunteer organization prior to the trip. Through a design thinking lens, the team’s tasks include identifying a local healthcare need, rapidly creating a prototype of a solution, and testing it for feedback. After interviewing people in the community, they discover that diabetes has been an ongoing issue. In consultation with their community mentors, the team spends a day brainstorming solutions and decides on training local health workers to facilitate weekly yoga classes, which will conclude with a community-led discussion on diabetes awareness. They rapidly “prototype” and invite locals to try out the class. Feedback is collected and incorporated into the next iteration of the class. Before leaving their host site, the team consolidates their findings into a bilingual report that regional institutions and stakeholders can use as a resource to scale their proposed solution.

As one can imagine, medical volunteers in a setting like this could create solutions that are novel, sustainable, and more importantly, rooted in local partnerships. In lieu of asking “What solutions can we create for this community?”, design thinking helps us reframe our perspective by asking, “What solutions can we create WITH this community?”

After all, like the renowned physician-anthropologist and global health leader, Dr. Paul Farmer, once mused:

We have to design a health delivery system by actually talking to people and asking, ‘What would make this service better for you?’

As soon as you start asking, you get a flood of answers