Stap(l)es of Health

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Jymirah Morris, Team Captain

Jymirah MorrisJymirah Morris is a 3rd year medical student. She was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan but raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She earned a B.S. in Biology with chemistry and Spanish minors from Xavier University of Louisiana. Before medical school, she worked as a health advocate at Feminist Women’s Health Center, where it was her job to ensure that women with low-access and a myriad of barriers received access to comprehensive feminine care. She also worked at New Directions, a day- camp for adult individuals with severe Autism Spectrum Disorder.

After spending so much time in the South, she thought it was time to make a move to the North, so she entered the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine but was quickly shocked by the caliber of northern winters! With more winter accessories than she thought possible, she has completed 3 years of medical school and has found love in the field of surgery, with hopes to pursue a career in ENT. Her passions include access to healthcare for underserved populations and optimizing women’s health.

Since entering medical school, her time essentially evaporated, so she has become more efficient with all of her favorite things: Reading, eating, shopping, and board games. She now she enjoys listening to books that she’d never have the time to sit down and read, ordering meals that she has no interest in preparing for herself, online shopping, and playing Property Brothers’ phone game.

Tierra Bender, Team Member

Tierra BenderTierra grew up in the small town of Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, where her wonderful mother and grandparents instilled a love of science and literature in her early on. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where she made some of the greatest friends ever, grew to love the Pittsburgh Penguins, and found her home away from home. Currently, she is a third year medical student at her beloved University of Pittsburgh, working to disprove the myth that medical students don’t sleep. It isn’t going well. She has a passion for the fields of ENT and women’s health, and hopes to use her degree to enact a lot of positive change and continue to be a voice for equality.

Mohammed Issa, Team Member

Mohammed IssaMohamad’s passion for serving underserved communities stems from his personal experience as a first-generation, Arab-American whose family had very poor health literacy and access to healthcare. His advocacy began in college when he created a community outreach group to improve healthcare literacy, a passion he carried into medical school where he was involved in otolaryngology-related disparities work through the Hope Clinic. Moreover, Mohamad helped initiate Michigan Medical School’s Free Clinic, a student-led and volunteer-driven initiative. As a resident in Otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical center, his passion for reducing socioeconomic health disparities prompted him to run the Otolaryngology clinics at Birmingham Free Clinic in Pittsburgh. Moreover, his desire to better understand (and serve) underserved regions seeking HN Oncology care in the Middle-East led him to partner with a regional NGO to develop and implement a hearing aid training program for refugee children in the Middle East during his tenure at the King Hussein Cancer Center where he was spending time developing a deeper insight into healthcare disparities in Otolaryngology and HN oncology on both global and domestic levels, while teaching him valuable lessons about operations, patient care, and empathy.

Eventually, Moahamad hope to not only address healthcare disparities domestically – including in Metro Detroit– but also develop networks internationally to address healthcare disparities in its many forms.

Vivianne Oyefusi, Team Member

Vivianne OyefusiVivianne is a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Originally from the DC metro area, she completed her undergraduate education in 2014 at the University of Pittsburgh. She has a wide variety of volunteer experiences including working for the Light of Life Rescue Mission Soup Kitchen, and the Guerrilla Eye Service – an ophthalmology clinic for the underserved. She also volunteers with the Birmingham Free Clinic, a medical clinic for the underserved and uninsured, as a translator, in-taker, and primary care provider. In her free time, she likes to play chef in the kitchen, play dancer on salsa nights, and try/fail to keep plants alive. She loves meeting new people, learning new stories, and hopes to “be a real doctor one day.” She is passionate about healing on multiple levels, including, but not limited to, the individual, societal, and global scales.

Rahilla Tarfa, Team Member

Rahilla TarfaBorn in Gainesville, GA and raised in Kano, Nigeria, Rahilla is a third-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine (Pitt Med) with a passion for advocacy, volunteerism and biomedical research. In college, while obtaining a bachelor’s in Bioinformatics and computational biology, she promoted school-wide concerns while serving as a Senator in the Student Government Association. During this time, she also developed a passion for biomedical research, and afterwards, pursued a Ph.D. in Neuroscience through the Brown-NIH Graduate Partnership Program. Here, she developed a desire to further apply her research work in alleviating human diseases, and pursued a medical degree afterwards. At Pitt Med, she continues her advocacy as a member of the curriculum committee and co-host of The Pitt Med Radio Hour podcast, promoting student voices. She volunteers with the Guerilla Eye Service, promoting vision health among the underserved in Pittsburgh. As a volunteer with the Women’s Clinic, she provides care to disenfranchised women, some of whom have escaped intimate partner violence. She also served as a First-year coordinator and member of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), contributing to fundraising efforts. As a second year, she served as a co-coordinator of the ENT student interest group, promoting visibility of the field among students. She is currently engaged in biomedical research, working on screening novel compounds that could alleviate the burden of tinnitus, a disease that disproportionately affects veterans. In her spare time, she loves to watch movies and shows, spend time with friends and family, and write.

Team Essay

The team returned to Jordan on a cloud of altruism. They expected to arrive to the excitement of children that had gained a new sense of the world with the use of hearing aids that were provided last year. Upon their return, they hoped for new patients eagerly awaiting their new hearing aids. In reality, the line was filled with familiar faces. These patients were returning for the same services from the audiology clinic. Shortly after the first trip to the Syrian refugee camp, many of the patients experienced a myriad of issues with their hearing aids – ear molds were dirty, batteries died, and in some, feedback was obvious. With heavy hearts, the team realized that they came, they saw, they intervened, and left without providing education on the hearing aids. The patients had no clue on how to maintain their devices. And the patients did not know because the team had left no way of ensuring the longevity of the hearing aids.

Hearing loss is the 4th leading cause of disability around the world. The AMA insurance Global Health Challenge can help us in our goals to alleviate the burden of hearing loss, beginning with one community. Collaboration with local organizations will help tailor our goals to the needs of the population. Meaningful contribution to a global society cannot be accomplished in a week-long mission trip without incorporating the auspices of sustainable local partnership. Travelling to a village with innovative tools, only to mitigate symptoms and then leave, is costly and insufficient. Without a plan for sustainability, there will always be a need to repeat the trip. There is benefit in giving a man a fish, but teaching him how to fish means he can feed himself. In any community– local and abroad– our best asset is education.

The first step in helping the hearing-impaired is providing information about hearing loss. We can help them understand the functioning and troubleshooting of hearing aids, but above all, strong local partnerships are needed to leave behind an educational legacy. We cannot allow ego to position us as the primary care team for these patients. Local healthcare providers must be partnered with, encouraged, and empowered to be involved. In the project that ours is modeled after, instructional videos were created in Arabic so that patients would know how to maintain their devices. Furthermore, local audiologists were assigned and trained in the use of these devices so that if patients had concerns, they had a local expert to address them with.

Still, every intervention has its caveats. This educational legacy must be established in the context of communities’ existing resources. While it would be great to provide an online module for training, those resources are inaccessible. For our project, we aim to provide resources such as audio cassettes and printed pamphlets, in Spanish. This way, we can be confident that long after we are gone, patients will keep perceiving the sounds of the world.