Nicolas Fesser, Team Captain
Nico Fesser is a second-year medical student at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Nico grew up in Madrid, Spain and moved to a small town in New York State when he was 14 years old. He went on to study Neurobiology and Global Health at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he also conducted a senior honors thesis project at the National AIDS Vaccine Research Laboratory. In addition to his academic work, Nico took on a 5-month internship at the West Africa AIDS Foundation during his time abroad in Ghana, an experience that solidified his passion for international health work. Following graduation, Nico went on to intern at the United Nations where he worked on various different international epidemics under the UN’s Medical Services Division. Finally, Nico spent this last summer working on the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Currently, Nico is the President of the University’s Public Health Interest Group, the Vice-President of the University’s AMA Chapter, and Manager of the Medical School’s student run health clinic, Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic. Nico plans on specializing in Emergency Medicine and hopes to work abroad as an emergency response physician after completing his residency.
James Lioi, Team Member
James’s pronouns are they/them/their. James is a second year medical student at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, where you are just as likely to find James walking upside down as you are to see them pressing their spacebar. As a circus arts performer turned medical student, James is deeply invested in community engagement from LGBTQIA+ rights to child art programs to the social determinants of health. Upon graduation, James hopes to support communities and train medical workers in underserved areas around the world.
Kirsten Schlosser, Team Member
Kirsten grew up in a quiet suburb of New York City. Restless for change and diversity she dreamed of learning about new cultures (especially the foods and languages). She received her bachelors in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from New York University. After working for a few years in Manhattan, and eating at a ton of different restaurants, she went back to school to obtain her Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, focusing on epidemiology and biostatistics. Currently, Kirsten is in her second year of medical school at University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She is very grateful for the diversity of Buffalo where she can try all the different foods that Buffalo has to offer from its thriving immigrant community. Kirsten’s interests are in international health and sustainability. She looks forward to combining the skills attained from her MPH and MD degrees to help impact lasting change at home and abroad.
True Global Health: A Proposal for Medical Students by Medical Students
Global health, in its purest form, is much more than spending a few weeks abroad in a foreign land. It is a beautiful, albeit chaotic, amalgamation of cultures and ideas united together with a common purpose for good. As citizens of this world we have witnessed the wonders of global outreach; however, we have also seen the pitfalls and shortcomings that come with it. Humbled by the world and all of our combined experiences, we have put together a proposal that we believe will better mitigate these lapses in global health for future volunteers to come.
As medical students, we see colleagues participate in medical trips on a regular basis. Programs are not always well established and experiences are variable. Our proposal is from a medical student perspective in order to better assist the populations that we serve and learn from.
First and foremost, we must realize that communities know their needs better than any stranger ever could. Keeping that in mind, we must assess local stakeholder needs and goals before trying to intervene in their affairs. Instead of designing a program based on what we believe the community needs, we must base it on their own ascribed goals. This can be done by working with local stakeholders such as community members, elders, and religious leaders.
Next, we should establish a permanent liaison to coordinate communication between the medical program and the local community. Students can engage in the program on a temporary basis depending on availability; however, the permanent liaison ensures continuity of care as well as an appropriate reassessment of needs.
Critical to the success of any program is to create value for a community by ensuring permanency in the region. As a result, it is imperative that a program have experienced clinicians committed to long term involvement and local support staff that can provide care throughout the year.
Having a multidisciplinary approach is also crucial to running a successful global outreach initiative. Building an interdisciplinary team composed of medical students, doctors, nurses, public health specialists, pharmacists and others will ensure we build a robust healthcare infrastructure that can address the diverse needs of the community. Furthermore, these individuals can assist in the training of local professionals in order to expand their knowledge and skills as well as diminish their need for external assistance.
Finally, continuity of care not only involves the physical aspect of healing but also involves caring for these individuals and advocating on their behalf once we have left. What we do and the things we see do not end with us and our experience in a place. Once we leave it is our duty to carry on that community’s legacy and experience. We must ensure that the places we have visited and learned from continue to benefit from our presence once we are gone.
By keeping true to these principals, it is possible to establish programs that allow volunteers to grow and communities to flourish. This is true global health.