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About GPSA

GPSA for Health is a hands-on, academic, service-learning program for high school and college students, and works in educational collaboration with Duke University and Johns Hopkins University.  Participants on our programs provide hands-on help, tackling real-world problems with the environment and healthcare in Guatemala, Belize, North Carolina and West Virginia (and soon in our Southeast Asia site).  Our founder, Dr. Robert Malkin, started Engineering World Health, taking college undergraduates to Nicaragua, in 2002.  EWH has since expanded to have college chapters in over 60 countries with trips throughout the world. Wanting to afford some of the same opportunities to high school students, Dr. Malkin created GPSA and started taking high school students to Guatemala in 2010. GPSA has since expanded to many countries and projects.  As you can see below, our highly trained and experienced staff is passionately devoted to making a difference in the world.

Robert Malkin, PhD, PE

Dr. Malkin is the Director of the Global Public Service Academies.Dr. Robert Malkin PE, Phd is also a Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering and Global Health at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Previously, Dr. Malkin was the Herbert Herff Professor of Biomedical Engineering at The Joint Biomedical Program at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee and The University of Tennessee. Before moving to Tennessee,Dr. Malkin was a professor of Electrical Engineering at The City College of New York and a member of the graduate faculty at The City University of New York and a research associate at Columbia University. Dr. Malkin received his MS and PhD in Electrical Engineering from Duke University in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Prior to attending graduate school, Dr. Malkin taught English in Thailand, worked at EM Microelectronics in Switzerland designing integrated circuits, worked for Cordis Corporation designing pacemakers and worked for Sarns Incorporated designing heart lung machines. Dr Malkin received the BS degree in Electrical Engineering from The University of Michigan in 1984. Dr. Malkin is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. Dr. Malkin serves as an expert advisor to the World Health Organization’s Advisory Group on Healthcare Technology, Advisory Group on Innovative Technologies and serves on the World Health Organization’s subcommittee on medical equipment donations.  Dr. Malkin was recently named an Engineering Hero by IEEE.

Soumyadipta Acharya, MD, MSE, PhD

Dr. Acharya is the Graduate Program Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) and an Assistant Research Professor in of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the chief architect of a new graduate program in bioengineering innovation and design. He also runs a program in global medical technology innovation, which focuses on developing appropriate healthcare technologies for public health interventions worldwide. He has been involved in the invention and early stage development of several diagnostic and therapeutic technologies aimed at reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality in developing countries. Several of these innovations have received funding from USAID and other agencies and are in preliminary field studies in South Asia and East Africa.  In recognition of his contributions to medical technology innovation, entrepreneurship and education Dr. Acharya received the Olympus Emerging Educational Leader Award (2011) from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), USA. He is also the recipient of the NASA Tech Briefs Award (2006) and the NASA Space Act Board Award (2008) in recognition of his work on human physiological signal analysis.

Brittany Ploss, Assistant Director

Brittany is the Assistant Director of GPSA. She earned her bachelors degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University in 2008. As an undergraduate student, she worked with Engineering World Health on healthcare equipment in Nicaragua and Tanzania. Subsequently, she led student groups in both of these locations. After working for six years as a software engineer in the pharmaceutical industry, Brittany returned to Duke University to earn her Masters of Science Degree in Global Health in 2016 with a focus on neurosurgery in Uganda. After graduation, she received an Endeavour Fellowship from the Government of Australia to research infectious diseases such as tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea and develop curriculum for Engineering World Health for use in Cambodia and elsewhere. In late 2016, Brittany returned to Duke to perform research with the Developing World Healthcare Technologies Laboratory; designing engineering focused research studies for implementation in Nigeria. She continues to work at Duke as a project manager for infectious disease studies at the Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine, working with projects in Liberia, Sri Lanka, and the US.

Christina Williams, Senior Medical Fellow

Christina graduated from Duke University in May of 2017 with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and minors in Global Health and Biology. While at Duke, Christina was a part of a Bass Connections team that researched sickle cell disease and conducted a project in Cameroon. She also volunteered in Durham Public Schools and at Lenox Baker Children’s Hospital. Led by her love of new cultures and passion to serve, Christina helped implement sustainable development projects including health education and group savings programs in Uganda on behalf of Nourish International. Upon her return, Christina served as president of Duke’s chapter of Nourish International. In addition to her global health and service interests, Christina has a love for dance and was a member of Nakisai African Dance Ensemble. In her free time she enjoys watching movies, learning new styles of dance, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Kirsten Bonawitz, Senior Medical Fellow

Kirsten graduated from Duke University in May 2017 with a B.S. in Neuroscience and minors in Biology and Chemistry. At Duke, Kirsten used her skills as a certified EMT to volunteer with Duke EMS, Duke’s student-run EMS organization, and she worked in a lab studying the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease. She developed her research into a senior thesis. Kirsten also volunteered with the Community Empowerment Fund, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing support to those transitioning out of homelessness and poverty. Additionally, Kirsten served as a publishing editor for Neurogenesis, Duke’s undergraduate neuroscience journal. Kirsten tap dances with Duke On Tap. She loves traveling, exploring museums, spending time with friends, and coffee.

Karl Johnson, Medical Fellow

Karl graduated with a BA in Economics from Johns Hopkins University in May of 2018. At Hopkins, he volunteered with Health Leads at the Harriet Lane Clinic and participated in research at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. In the future, Karl will pursue graduate school for health economics. In his free time he enjoys running, reading books, and having good conversations with friends.

Carly Silverstein, Medical Fellow

Carly grew up in Woodland Hills, California and graduated from
California State University, Chico in December of 2018 with a Bachelor
of Science in Exercise Physiology. Carly grew up with a passion for
soccer and helping others. While in college, Carly furthered her
volunteering passion by participating in various clubs and
organizations on campus that were centered around bettering the lives
of students and the Chico, California community as a whole. After a
two month backpacking trip across Europe, Carly’s love of traveling
grew immensely. GPSA is the perfect combination of travel, immersion
in another culture and helping others and became the next big chapter
in Carly’s life. She plans on continuing her work in healthcare in
the future by becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner. In her free
time, Carly loves to paint, read and go on outdoor adventures.

Gabrielle Montes, Medical Fellow 

Gabrielle graduated from Duke University in May 2016 with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Chemistry. Gabby is a graduate of the IB program at St. Petersburg High School.  While at Duke, Gabrielle was involved in extracurricular groups such as being on the executive board for the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students. This organization served to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in medicine through events and outreach. Additionally, Gabrielle volunteered at the Project Access of Durham County that provided free specialized medical referrals to patients without insurance. During her first gap year she worked to place foster children into care and also worked with students at the YMCA to provide exposure to at-risk youth to the cultural arts. In her free time she enjoys teaching kickboxing, going to the beach, and traveling and exploring new wonders of the world.

Monica Mae Majillo, Medical Fellow

Monica Mae graduated from the University of Virginia in May of 2018 with Bachelor of Arts in Biology. Monica is a graduate of the IB program at Stonewall Jackson Highschool.  She worked closely with doctors in Washington D.C. and the greater Northern Virginia area first as a volunteer then as a medical assistant which peaked her interest in the health care profession. She volunteered with American Red Cross to help voice the importance of blood donation especially in periods of crisis. During her time at UVa, she worked on a research study looking at the correlation between genetic variants and its effect on one’s predisposition to developing hypertension. In her free time, Monica Mae loves to play tennis, to read, and is allured by adventure. With an intimate character, she loves working with the locals and children in indigenous areas of Guatemala all while fully embracing its wonderous culture.

Peyton Pullen, Medical Fellow 

Peyton graduated from University of Miami in May of 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies and Pre-Professional Health Sciences. Peyton loves to travel and has visited 46 different countries. During her travels abroad, she has volunteered with La Casa Ronald McDonald and has worked with and shadowed doctors in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Tijuana, Mexico. She plans to continue her work in healthcare in the future by attending graduate school and becoming a Physician Assistant. In her free time, Peyton enjoys knitting, tumbling and aerial arts.

Dorothy Tang, Medical Fellow

Dorothy Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Biology from Princeton University in 2017. While at Princeton, she played on the women’s varsity tennis team and also researched the roles of COPII components in Drosophila melanogaster oogenesis for her senior thesis. During her first gap year, she worked with City Year Philadelphia, helping high-need schools by supporting young students’ academic and social-emotional development. In her free time, she loves to travel, cook, and check out new coffee shops.

Vanessa Brombosz, Regional Manager

Vanessa is from Montreal, Canada. After completing work on her bachelor’s degree in psychology and occupational therapy in 2008, she worked for five years as an occupational therapist, specializing in orthopaedic rehabilitation and dementia care. Vanessa then traveled and worked in South and Central America for two years, where she learned Spanish and gained an appreciation for working in multi-cultural environments. In June of 2016, she completed an MSc in Public Health at McGill University, where she developed a particular interest for global health issues affecting maternal and child health and vulnerable populations. As part of her master’s practicum, she worked with the World Bank Group in Lima Peru under the National HIV Allocation Efficiency Analysis Program. Her project focused on HIV prevention policy for indigenous communities of the Peruvian Amazon. Vanessa now lives in Xela, Guatemala, and is works with GPSA to improve health in the communities in the area.

Gabriela Maldonado, Assistant Regional Manager 

Gabriela was born and raised on the outskirts of Guatemala city. Through a scholarship, she moved to the United States to attend college. She studied Communication Studies and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Gabriela also worked as an assistant at the Center for International Education at the university and served as a liaison between the Guatemalan immigrant community and the Knoxville’s health department. She has been back in Guatemala since 2013, growing organic vegetables, raising a child, and facilitating workshops and traveling programs for North American students. Gabriela believes in solidarity and cooperation.

Amparo Monzon, Recruiting and Admissions Coordinator

Amparo was born and raised in the Highlands of Guatemala, a Maya Kiche woman. She studied Graphic Design at John Brown University, Siloam Springs Arkansas, and holds a Masters in International Relations from Westminster University-London. She is fluent in English, Spanish and K’ iche’. She has worked in the EducationUSA Outreach Program for the United States Embassy in Guatemala. Recently she held the positon of General Coordinator for a Spanish School / humanitarian NGO in Quetzaltenango, and assisted in several investigations on topics like migration and education. Amparo enjoys mountain biking, learning from her ancestral history and started a store that sells fair trade, local products in her hometown.

Andrea Molina, Senior Program Coordinator

Andrea is from Guatemala. After completing work on her bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Commerce, she worked for five years in the sales and recruiting departments at a Canadian telecommunications company based in Guatemala. Andrea then traveled and worked in Vancouver, Canada, where she learned more about her field. She later moved to France and worked as a Spanish teacher for high school students. After working abroad for two years more, Andrea developed an interest in multicultural environments, international relationships, sustainability, and community development. Andrea now lives in Xela, Guatemala.

Lennert Rohde, Recruiting Manager

Lennert Rohde sees his position as GPSA recruiting manager as a once in a lifetime opportunity that combines his professional experience with his passion for different cultures and languages. Born in Belgium and raised in Holland, Lennert graduated from the Hogeschool van Utrecht in 2001 with a degree in Communications Management. After college, Lennert worked in Holland for six years as a recruiter and consultant for an employment agency. He moved to Guatemala in 2007, first working as the coordinator of an NGO until 2009, and later teaching English at a university and at a US Department of State micro scholarship program for teenagers.

Diana Perez, Program Coordinator

Diana was born in Totonicapán, Guatemala. As a teenager, she learned about the American culture and language thorough a US Department of State micro scholarship, where she discovered a passion to help marginalized people to succeed through international cooperation. As a result, she pursued her undergraduate education in the United States with a scholarship that allowed her to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Accounting. There, she was as a student ambassador for business programs and conferences held in Germany, Japan, Chile, and within the US. After graduating, she came back to Guatemala and worked as a general coordinator for a local NGO in the rural areas of Quetzaltenango. Diana also served as the Financial Director of a City Hall in Totonicapán where she contributed to the economic development of a community and fought against corruption. She is currently studying for a master’s degree in Business Management and Auditing. In her free time, she enjoys learning about philosophy and oil painting.