The Frist Global Health Leaders (FGHL) program affords young health professional students, residents, and fellows the opportunity to serve and train abroad in underserved communities for up to one semester. In doing so, they will bolster capacity in clinics in need of support as well as offer training to community health workers to promote sustainability upon their departure from these communities. As part of the program, they blog about their experiences here. For more information, visit our program page.

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown is a second year Emergency Medicine Resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She grew up in Kingwood, WV, and afterwards attending college at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where she earned a B.S. in Biochemistry. While in college, Ashley volunteered as an EMT with the local rescue squad and developed a love for emergency care. She attended medical school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, where she was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society. Ashley will be traveling to Georgetown, Guyana in the spring of 2012 and is excited to work at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation with the Emergency Medicine residency program by lecturing, doing bedside teaching, as well as learning plenty more about tropical medicine.

Catherine Burger

Dr. Catherine Burger originates from Blissfield, Michigan, a small farming community. She attended the University of Michigan earning a BS in Biology and History in 2006. During her undergraduate years she performed research in the Pediatric Anesthesia Department and worked as a home health aide for hospice patients.  She matriculated to Michigan State University and received her M.D. in 2010. She was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society and the Gold Humanism Honor Society.  During medical school she researched injury patterns in adolescent sexual assault victims and published her findings in Annals of Emergency Medicine. During her last year of medical school she spent six weeks in Malawi, Africa working in the adult medical ward. She is currently in her second year of residency in the  Emergency Medicine Program in Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Catherine is very excited to be participating in the Intimate Partner Violence program in Georgetown, Guyana. She will be giving lectures on the topic and leading small group workshops with local healthcare workers.  

Nadja Colon Nadja Colon, General Surgeon resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The product of a military family, Dr. Nadja Colon was raised in Germany until 1992, when her family eventually settled down in Clarksville, TN. She graduated from Northeast High School at the top of her class with plans to pursue premedical studies. As such, she attended Vanderbilt University from 2000-2004, graduating cum laude with Bachelor of Science degrees in both the Biological Sciences and Neuroscience. She then furthered her studies by attending Vanderbilt University School of Medicine from 2004-2008, during which time she developed a keen interest in surgery.

 In 2008, Dr. Colon entered residency in General Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. During this time, she was a member of several professional surgical societies, including the American College of Surgeons and Vanderbilt’s honorary H. William Scott, Jr. Society. She participated in scholarly endeavors, presented at national and international conferences, and published several peer-reviewed articles.  She was awarded the Lester Williams Surgical Award and became a Frist Global Health Scholar after participating in an exchange program at the AIC Kijabe hospital in Kenya in 2012. Dr. Colon recently completed her training in June 2014. While deciding on a fellowship in a surgical subspecialty, she will practice general surgery on a Locum Tenens basis in the interim.

Tracy Curtis

Tracy Curtis is a Physician Assistant student at Duke University. She is originally from Littleton, Colorado. Tracy received her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Kinesiology and Business Administration. She went on to complete a Master's in Medical Sciences at Boston University, conducting her thesis work in pediatrics orthopaedics. Tracy has a strong interest in global health and will be completing a one-month international clinical rotation at Karapitiya Hospital in Galle, Sri Lanka.


Elizabeth Harris

Elizabeth N. Harris, MIM (MBA), MSN, FNP-C, graduated from Vanderbilt School of Nursing in August 2012. After graduation, her Frist fellowship took her to central Kenya where she lived and worked with nurse midwives in three nurse-owned private clinics for three months. Her experience was a unique opportunity for cross-cultural awareness and nursing and business information sharing. This experience helped to solidify her interest in working in small, rural and community health centers and to provide a framework for the establishment of a Nurse in Residence program in 2013, by the Vanderbilt Institute of Global Health to send recently graduated nurse practitioners to work in central Kenya. 

Prior to enrolling at Vanderbilt, Ms. Harris spent over 16 years in the biopharmaceutical industry, her most recent role as Vice President of Commercial Operations. In addition to the commercial operations responsibilities, Ms. Harris has experience in developing and implementing cancer research through clinical trials in oncology and infectious diseases. After returning from Kenya, Ms. Harris conducted a community health assessment for a small rural community in Northeastern Alabama. Ms. Harris currently is working as a nurse practitioner in a designated rural health clinic on an island in Washington state.

Nadine Harris

Nadine Harris is completing her final year of residency in the Internal Medicine program at Vanderbilt Medical Center.   She was born in Georgetown, Guyana but relocated to The Bahamas with her family at a young age.  She moved to the U.S. to attend school and to pursue medicine.  She graduated from the Brown-Dartmouth Medicine program in 2009.  In summer between first and second years of medical school, Nadine was given the opportunity to return to Guyana to work in the national HIV/TB clinic. She was impressed by the lack of basic health care knowledge among the general population and  was overwhelmed in the clinic by the need for not only material resources but also for well trained primary and subspecialized care.   Nadine is very much looking forward to returning to Georgetown, Guyana and using the time to see lots pathology, to learn as much as she can about practicing medicine in a resource poor setting, and to provide good care to those in the community.

Yi He 2

Yi He is a student in the Epidemiology Doctor of Public Health program in the School of Public Health at East Tennessee State University. He completed his MPH in Health Services Administration at ETSU in 2011, and has a Bachelor of Management with a major in Public Administration from Wuhan Bioengineering Institute, China.   He worked as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Hadii Mamudu on a variety of projects related to tobacco policy.  He and Dr. Mamudu have  also collaborated on several publications and conference presentations. He traveled to Munsieville, South Africa to work with Project Hope UK on the Thoughtful Path project. 

Sarakay Johnson

Sarakay Johnson is completing her final year of undergraduate studies in the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University. During her fall 2012 semester, Sarakay will travel to Munsieville, South Africa, to complete her international field placement with the Thoughtful Path Program. The Thoughtful Path is part of Project HOPE UK, and Munsieville was chosen to be the site for the work of the program because it is one of South Africa’s oldest undeveloped townships. Sarakay will be traveling with fellow public health student Courtney Stanley to work on project development for community health improvement and public health promotion. Sarakay will graduate in May 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health with a concentration in healthcare management and policy.

Rondi Kauffman Rondi Kauffmann is a senior general surgery resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is from Southern California and received her BS degree in Physiological Sciences with a minor in Cultural Anthropology from UCLA. She completed her MD/MPH degree at the University of Minnesota, where she was elected to the AOA Medical Honor Society.  She conducted research on malaria in France and Senegal for her MPH thesis and spent two years doing clinical research with Vanderbilt’s Department of Trauma. She has published manuscripts in the fields of surgical education and critical care.  She loves traveling, scuba diving, and running. Her favorite hobby is spending time with my husband, Adam and two children, Madeleine (17 months) and Sawyer (1 month).   She is thrilled to be returning to Africa, and she anticipates a life-changing experience as she engages in teaching and learning in Kijabe, Kenya.   

Courtney Massaro

Courtney Massaro (at left) graduated with her MSN in May of 2012 from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (from the CNM and FNP programs). She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia in French Language and International Relations, and her MPH from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Courtney has had the opportunity to work internationally as a Community Health Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, as well as other positions in South Sudan, Niger, and Suriname.

During her time as a Frist Global Health Leader, Courtney spent 3 months working at the L'Hôpital Immaculée Conception in Les Cayes, Haiti. She worked as a midwife at the busy hospital caring for mothers and their infants and collected data about HIV+ pregnant women who were receiving care at the hospital as well as those who had been “lost to follow-up” and were no long receiving care. She also helped train Haitian healthcare workers from the Départementde Sud in Helping Babies Breathe neonatal resuscitation techniques.

Andrew Murphy Andrew Jackson Murphy is a fourth year general surgery resident from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.  He is traveling to Kijabe, Kenya to work at AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital as a general surgery resident for 4 weeks.  This will be his first departure from the Western Hemisphere, having been born in Toronto, Ontario Canada and having spent most of his childhood and adult life in the Atlanta and Nashville areas.  His clinical and research interests are in pediatric surgery and he hopes to pursue a fellowship in pediatric surgery after general surgery residency.  He hopes to grow as a surgeon by learning to practice in a limited-resource setting.  Andrew Murphy

Ifeoma Ozodiegwu

Ifeoma Ozodiegwu is a Master of Public Health Candidate at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in the College of Public Health. Her concentration is in Health Services Administration. She is an international student from Nigeria. Ife has an undergraduate degree in Applied Biochemistry from Enugu State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria, where she graduated from in 2007. As an undergraduate student, she was a founding member and youth program officer of CELL, a non-governmental organization that assisted impoverished youths. She is currently interning with the Tobacco Control Unit at the World Health Organization Africa Regional Office (WHO AFRO) in Brazzaville, Congo. Her main responsibility is monitoring and evaluating country compliance to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This groundbreaking policy is the first of its kind and it requires Parties to the Convention to implement tobacco products supply and demand reduction strategies in order to tobacco consumption. She will also be working to develop research papers on the status of the supply strategies in the African Region and country level reports on tobacco use.

Rebecca Pfaff

Rebecca Pfaff is a senior medical student at Meharry Medical College.  She was raised on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and majored in anthropology and political science at Wellesley College. She has had the travel bug as long as she can remember and her first hero was Albert Schweitzer; she has pursued a career in medicine because of him. Her prior travels have included studying history in Israel, anthropology and political science in Southern Africa, nutrition in Sri Lanka, and the sheer pleasure of travel in Europe. Rebecca will spend one month in Riobamba, Ecuador rotating on the general medicine service in a pediatric hospital and the obstetric service in the public hospital. For the second month and a half she will be in Cuenca, Ecuador working with Cinterandes and a local surgeon, Dr. Rodas, who treats patients both in the cities and in remote villages. This is the first time she will have the opportunity to explore her interests of travel, anthropology, and medicine all in one trip. It will also be her first time south of the border and she is very excited.

Andrew Pfeffer Andrew N. Pfeffer, MD is a native of East Brunswick, New Jersey. He attended Brown University (’05), where he graduated with a BA in American History.  After working as a Research Assistant at the non-profit Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, Andrew began his medical training at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, receiving his MD in 2010. While in medical school, he was a Dean’s Center for Global Health Scholar, traveling to Guatemala to work in various community clinics and hospitals. Andrew is currently a second year resident in Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Andrew is extremely excited about working at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation in Georgetown, Guyana. He will be providing patient care and doing bedside teaching with the general medical officers and Emergency Medicine Residents in the newly established Emergency Medicine program that GPHC has established in collaboration with the Vanderbilt Department of Emergency Medicine. Andrew will also be lecturing to hospital staff and physicians on various Emergency Medicine topics.
Alyssa Small, Meharry Medical College.

Joe Schlesinger Joseph J. Schlesinger is currently a resident physician in the Department of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Through the BH Robbins Scholar program at Vanderbilt, he is pursuing his research interests around anesthesiology education and multisensory integration by working with the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.  His research interests began in while in medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston when he traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico for a summer to research traveler’s diarrhea. Medicine is not his only passion; he started playing the piano at the age of five and subsequently earned his Bachelor of Arts in Music with a concentration in jazz piano performance from Loyola University New Orleans. The field of anesthesiology allows him to employ the creativity developed as a musician to anesthesia by striving to provide effective, safe, and efficient patient care.  Both Joe and his wife, Kira, an Episcopal clergywoman, have a passion for global health and treating the whole patient, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He looks forward to practicing in Kijabe, Kenya.  

Courtney Small_gardens Courtney Stanley (at far left) is completing her final year of undergraduate studies in the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University.  During her fall 2012 semester, Courtney will travel to Munsieville, South Africa, to complete her international field placement with the Thoughtful Path Program.  The Thoughtful Path is part of Project HOPE UK, and Munsieville was chosen to be the site for the work of the program because it is one of South Africa’s oldest undeveloped townships.  Courtney will be traveling with fellow public health student Sarakay Johnson to work on project development for community health improvement and public health promotion.  Courtney will graduate in December 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health with a concentration in community health and a minor in psychology.

Holly Stump Holly Stump is a currently a student in the Duke University Physician Assistant program, class of 2012. Originally from Greensburg, Pa, Holly graduated in 1998 from Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina, with a degree in Sports Medicine. She then earned a M.S. in Sports Health Care from what is now A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Health Sciences in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2005, she earned an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She will be practicing in Galle, Sri Lanka.

Kelsey Tipton

Kelsey Tipton is a senior at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee where her field of study is Public Health with a concentration in healthcare management and policy. Kelsey is a recipient of the ASPIRE Appalachia scholarship, which is made possible through the LoveEverybody foundation based in Nashville, Tennessee and Hope Through Healing Hands. Through the generous scholarship Kelsey is able to do her field study in the rural Appalachia area of Roan Mountain, Tenn. Being able to work in the Roan Mountain area is very special to Kelsey because she is a native of Roan Mountain, and looks forward to the work she can do for her community. 

Sage Whitmore bio Sage P. Whitmore is a third year emergency medicine resident at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He was born and grew up in Tucson, Arizona, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in physiology and graduating summa cum laude from the University of Arizona in 2005. From there he matriculated to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas where he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society and earned his medical degree with high honors in 2009. He is currently finishing his specialty training in Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After graduation in June 2012, he will begin a training fellowship in Critical Care Medicine at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. His interests include septic shock, trauma, and airway management. Sage will be traveling to Georgetown, Guyana for the first time in December of 2012. During his month there he will be working for the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), directly caring for patients in the emergency department and providing bedside and formal didactic teaching to medical students and housestaff regarding the approach to resuscitating the acutely ill patient. He is very excited about this opportunity to teach and learn from the GPHC Emergency Medicine residents as they solidify their own up-and-coming residency training program in Guyana.

Nuo Xu Nuo Xu (Noah) (at middle) is a Master of Public Health Candidate at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in the College of Public Health. He is from China where he achieved his undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics (concentrated in Applied Statistics), South China Normal University. He is always interested in human behavior health, such as obesity and stress management. Seeking a way to combine his statistical skills and community health services interest, he chose American Samoa, a remote south pacific island to run the first stress management program on the island. Coming from a big city Guangzhou, it was the first time he lived in an island life. At the beginning, he was shocked that how people stressed and lived in unhealthy lifestyle in a place which other people consider as a paradise. As time goes by, Nuo Xu started to merge into the culture by interviewing and working with locals from all vocations. His own way to manage stress is to explore new things on the island, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, running by the sea, hiking, climbing trees and husking coconuts. Nuo Xu had a great time working in American Samoa and wants to return and contribute his capacity again in a heartbeat.

Rob Yates

Rob Yates is a fourth year resident in general surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Rob became interested in different cultures as he grew up traveling with his family through Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. He completed a B.A. in Psychology and Neuroscience at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) and obtained his medical degree at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Interested in a career in academic surgery, he completed a Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation fellowship at Duke University investigating the effects of acute kidney injury on ischemic stroke. He will be spending four weeks at the African Inland Church (AIC)-Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. While this will be his second trip to Kenya, it will be his first international experience in healthcare as a physician, and he is excited for this opportunity to experience the delivery of surgical care in the developing world.

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