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 Thailand.  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.

Vanessa Brombosz, Director

Vanessa is from Montreal, Canada. After completing a degree in psychology in 2005 and an occupational therapy degree in 2008, she worked for eight years as an occupational therapist specializing in orthopaedic rehabilitation and dementia care. Vanessa then travelled to South and Central America for two years, where she learned Spanish and gained an appreciation for working in multi-cultural environments. In 2016 she completed an MSc.PH at McGill University. 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. Vanessa joined the GPSA team in 2016, working with the Ministry of Health in Guatemala and coordinating travel programs. She then transitioned to a management position within the organization as Assistant Regional Manager in 2017, Regional Manager of Operations in 2018 and Assistant Director of Operations in 2019. Vanessa has a particular interest for global health issues affecting vulnerable populations. She lives in Xela, Guatemala.

Robert Malkin, PhD, PE, Director of Curriculum

Dr. Malkin is the Assitant 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.

Omni Cassidy, Visiting Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Omni Cassidy, Ph.D., is a Visiting Research Assistant Professor at GPSA. She is also a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Population Health Science Scholars Program and the Socio Economic Evaluation of Dietary Decisions (SEED) Lab at the New York University School of Medicine. She completed her doctoral training at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and her clinical psychology residency at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Cassidy’s overarching career goal is to continue a programmatic line of research examining environmental, cultural, and individual factors that place communities of color at high risk for diet-related chronic illnesses. Her research interest is at the intersection of race, culture, and the food environment. Dr. Cassidy’s research focuses on the ways various food marketing platforms uniquely influence perception and eating behaviors among communities of color; identify effective dissemination methods that engage community stakeholders, agencies, and policymakers; and collaborate with communities to advocate for better food environments. Dr. Cassidy’s ultimate goal is to use research to inform domestic and international food policies, as well as empower communities of color.

Payal Kahar, Visiting Assistant Professor

Dr. Payal Kahar is a Professor in the Health Science department at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Kahar earned a doctorate in Health Education from Texas A&M University in December 2015. With a background in dentistry and public health, her research focuses on oral health among underserved and rural populations in addition to exploring health disparities among minority populations. Her past research experiences include assessing oral health knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, oral health-related quality of life among rural populations in Central India, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and patients with end-stage renal disease in southwest Florida. She has also been involved in collaborative work to assess health and its indicators among Latinos/as in southwest Florida.

Samantha Ruth, Senior Medical Fellow

Samantha graduated with a Masters in Public Health and Global Environmental Health from George Washington University in Washington, DC. Her undergraduate degree is from The University of Arizona in Microbiology and Biochemistry. Sam was a secondary science teacher for the Peace Corps in Cameroon, and then a teacher for a local high school in Tucson before deciding to pursue Master of Public Health. She has a research background in antibiotic resistance. She attended Catalina Foothills High School in Tucson Arizona. Sam loves playing tennis, cooking (especially baking), reading, spending time with friends/family and watching movies.

Amit Perlin, Senior Medical Fellow

Amit was a double major in Neuroscience and Philosophy at Tulane University. He worked at Tulane University’s School of Medicine Otolaryngology. He also organized mindfulness classes at Sophie B. Wright Charter School while at Tulane. While conducting research at The University of Washington, Amit focused on gene amplification, identification, and the usage of CRISPR. Amit graduated from the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. During his year with GPSA, Amit is hoping to expand his knowledge of different cultures and enhance his medical skills. In addition, he wants to improve his ability to communicate with future Latin-American patients. He is planning on going on to medical school after his GPSA experience with a focus on practice and research. Amit enjoys lifting weights and running, playing and watching sports, hiking, camping, traveling, music, new foods, movies and spending time with friends and family.

Imari Genias, Senior Medical Fellow

Imari is a graduate of Duke University, majoring in biology with minors in Chemistry and Visual Media Studies. Her membership in the Black Student Alliance and Cardea Fellows was an important part of her experience at Duke. She led group discussions for non-native English speakers and worked with 8th grade Hispanic students on being politically engaged in their community. During her studies at Duke, she also conducted research on the effectiveness of algae for biofuels and also worked on an HIV prevention project. A graduate of Luella High School in Locust Grove, Georgia, Imari likes to sew blankets and pillows in her spare time.

Benjamin Bryer, Senior Medical Fellow

Benjamin is a graduate of The University of Maryland and The Gann Academy in Waltham, MA. Benjamin majored in Behavioral and Community Health at UM. Benjamin was involved in many social justice and service related activities in undergrad through the Jewish Community. For example, he helped swab almost 1,500 people for the international registry, while finding 13 matches and 2 life-saving bone marrow transplants.During a study abroad experience, Benjamin conducted a study on determinants of the subjective health and well-Being of cycle rickshaw wallahs in Varanasi, India. Benjamin won the Fraley award, the highest undergraduate honor offered by the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland. Benjamin is intending to go for a Master’s in Public Health after his year with GPSA. Benjamin likes concerts and festivals, hiking scuba diving, and learning new languages among many other interests.

Jessica Simon, Senior Medical Fellow

Jessica majored in Applied Math and Biology at Brown University. During her years at Brown, she volunteered at Clínica Esperanza, a free clinic in Providence, RI that provided services to a low-income Hispanic population. After graduating, she spent a year serving with the National Health Corps Philadelphia, a program that aims to improve health outcomes in under resourced communities. After GPSA, she will begin a MD/MPH dual degree program at Tufts Medical School in Boston, MA. Jessica likes to travel, read, hike, and spend time with friends and family.

Manjari Sriparna, Senior Medical Fellow

Manjari graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a double major in molecular and cellular biology and public health.At JKU, Manjariresearched a receptor involved in the uptake of the prion-like protein that causes Parkinson’s disease. She isolated and purified proteins and tested their therapeutic properties at both the cellular and organismal level. She was awarded a grant to narrow down therapies to three main cellular cascade blockers that functioned to reduce uptake of the protein that causes Parkinson’s.Manjari likes to cook spicy foods (Indian, Mexican, and Thai) and debate.

Molly Stachurski, Senior Medical Fellow

Molly Stachurski graduated from The University of Michigan School with a major in Public Health. She minored in Biological Anthropology. She has previously worked at the University of Michigan Hospital in the Departments of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology. While she was in college, she taught weekly nutrition and exercise lessons to middle school students and worked toward legislation to control climate change. She has a research background in the seasonality of Leptospirosis cases in Thailand and malaria resistant genes in Oceania populations. After her GPSA experience, Stachurski is planning on obtaining an MSc at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She enjoys playing soccer, running, reading, and traveling.

Angelica Estevez, Senior Medical Fellow

Angelica Estevez graduated from California State University majoring in Exercise Physiology with a focus on health and wellness. While she was an undergraduate she tutored migrant students and worked as an assistant in physical therapy. After GPSA, she plans to attend Pharmacy school. She enjoys exploring new places and new foods.

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.

Diana Perez, Assistant Manager: Operations

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.

Angela Pira, Program Coordinator

Angela was born in Guatemala City and moved to Quetzaltenango when she was very young. As a kid, her mother involved her in different activities to support and help children in orphanages and hospitals in the Quetzaltenango area. When she finished High School, she was awarded a scholarship to pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a minor degree in Child Development, in the United States. There, she was part of a non-profit started by students that raised funds to provide scholarships for children in Tucurú, Guatemala and also helped to raise funds for mentally challenged children and adults in Honduras. Through this volunteering service, she became passionate about supporting people in Guatemala who have limited access to health and education. After graduating, she came back to Guatemala and worked for a USAID funded project in Quetzaltenango. Angela has also given lectures at Centro Universitario de Occidente, CUNOC, in Quetzaltenango about child development. She is currently studying for a specialization in Cognitive Integrative Therapy. Angela enjoys reading and swimming.

Laila Jalilian, Program Coordinator

Laila, a child of Guatemalan and Iranian immigrants, was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated in 2017 from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A in Public Health and a minor in Public Policy. While at UC Berkeley she was an advocate coordinator at a public hospital linking low-income patients to local health resources, worked with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions organizing events to recruit historically underrepresented high school students into higher education, and was a legal assistant/Spanish interpreter at an immigration office whose majority clientele were immigrants from Latin America. After graduating, Laila moved to Guatemala and dedicated her time to learning Mam, an indigenous Mayan language, and instructed weekly women’s yoga classes in San Juan Ostuncalco. Laila’s passions lie in health equity, social justice, and advocating for under-resourced communities. In her free time Laila loves to dance Zumba, backpacking, and yoga.

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. 

Irma Oomen, Admissions and Recruiting Coordinator

Irma Oomen is originally from the Netherlands, where she obtained her degree in Communications at the Fontys University in Tilburg with a minor in Spanish. During her studies she developed a passion for the Spanish language and Latin American culture. She studied in Mexico and completed her internship in Barcelona.
After graduating, she went back to Latin America and worked in both Costa Rica and Guatemala. She moved to Guatemala in 2013 where she worked as program coordinator for a local NGO in the rural areas of Quetzaltenango until 2018. After working for almost 2 years in the Netherlands, she returned to Guatemala towards the end of 2019. In her free time, Irma enjoys time with her family and going out for a run.

GPSA’s Teaching Assistants (TA) are Graduate students from Duke University specialized in Global Health. They work, one-on-one with GPSA participants on project development, career advice, and their course work.

Annie Seaman, Teaching Assistant

Annie Seaman attended New York University, New York University Shanghai and Duke University.  She majored in Global Health and Global China Studies.  While in Shanghai, she worked with a group of migrant children, teaching English.  She has travelled extensively for work (China, Indonesia and Taiwan) and pleasure (Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Laos and Singapore).  Her research has taken her to Jakarta, Indonesia where she interviewed midwives, pregnant women and postpartum mothers to better understand the quality of maternal care at the community health centers.  Seaman will soon begin work with the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA).  She enjoys hot yoga, vegan cooking and reading.

Jacob Stocks, Teaching Assistant

Jacob Stocks is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.  Stocks majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry and Spanish for the Medical Professions and received a Master of Science in Global Health with a concurrent graduate certificate in International Development Policy.  Stocks volunteered extensively as an undergraduate working at Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, Project Heel and Best Buddies, where he worked to create an inclusive community environment and build relationships with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  He has worked in Ghana and Kenya, working on a project to develop and pilot test a decision support tool for community health volunteers providing cervical cancer screening services.  Stocks enjoys TED talks and wood working.

Coralei Neighbors, Teaching Assistant

Ms. Neighbors graduated from Baylor University and is currently studying at Duke University.  Her current research focuses on infectious diseases, including COVID-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses.  She helps to collect and organize data from patients in the US and Sri Lanka.   She has won numerous awards as,for example Community Engagement and Service Peer Leader of the Year Award and the Virginia Crump Award for Outstanding Female in Community Service. After GPSA, she plans on applying for epidemiology PhD programs.  Neighbors enjoys hiking and kayaking with her two dogs

Sara Snouse, Teaching Assistant

Sara Snouse attended Duke University for Graduate school and Appalachian State University for undergraduate.  She has majored in biological anthropology and Global Health.  She has worked in Uganda and The Republic of South Africa and has visited Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Snouse will begin Duke’s ABSN (Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing) program in January 2021 and will then continue for a DNP in nurse-midwifery.  She likes to go to coffee shops, make art and music, and go hiking.

Paige O’Leary, Teaching Assistant

O’Leary is a graduate of Queen’s University, Kingston Ontario, The University of Toronto and Duke University.  Her degrees are in neuroscience, cells and systems biology and global health.  Her research has included conducting a feasibility assessment of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) predictive modeling tool at a tertiary level hospital in Moshi Tanzania, a colonoscopy and anesthesia qualitative study, a study of anesthesia monitoring during electroconvulsive shock therapy, and investigating the effects of caffeine and cafestol on the induction of heat shock proteins.  She has won awards and funding from The Duke Global Health Institute, The Canadian Research Chair, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Queens College.

Hiwot Zewdie, Teaching Assistant

Zewdie graduated from The University of South Florida with a major in Cell and Molecular Biology and Psychology  She has traveled extensively, visiting Ethiopia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, England, France and Ireland.  Her master’s thesis focused on psychological well-being and urban greenspace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Her undergraduate honors thesis focused on psychological well-being and natural environment among Vietnamese and American college students.  She received many awards including the Golden Bull Award, Global Citizen Award, Adinkrahene Emerging Leader Award and scholarships such as the Florida Academic Scholar and USF Gold Scholar.   Zewdie likes concerts, travelling, exploring coffee shops and taking care of her plants.