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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jasmine Tapper, Medical Fellow

Jasmine is a graduate of Mercer University with a major in Global Health Studies on a Pre-Nursing Track. She attended St. Vincent’s Academy in Savannah, GA for high school. While in college, Jasmine was the President of Mercer University Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, 2nd VP for the National Council of Negro Women, an Event planner for Amnesty International, and on the Family and Hospital Relations Committee for MU Miracle. Jasmine has conducted research on diverse topics including youth incarceration and HIV/AIDS. Jasmine has worked at the CDC in Atlanta and in Nicaragua. After her gap year with GPSA she will be returning to the US for nursing school. Jasmine enjoys exploring nature, going on adventures and spending time with her family.

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.

Samantha Ruth, 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, 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.

Sasha Orewa, Medical Fellow

Sasha recently graduated from Emory University with a major in Human Health and a minor in Sociology. While at Emory, Sasha worked for a non profit that provides after school services for the refugee community in Clarkston Georgia and was the media director for a 2019 international conference on sexual and reproductive health. She has previously traveled to Honduras to volunteer at an orphanage where she helped manage the day to day functions as well as assisting with care of children with cerebral palsy. She has published on safe conception strategies for HIV+ heterosexual couples and was on the Dean’s List at Emory. Sasha is a graduate of South Cobb Academy of Research and Medical Sciences (Magnet High School Program). Her long term objectives are to obtain a Masters in public health studying epidemiology and behavior change. Sasha enjoys photography, reading and exploring new places with friends.

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.

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, 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.

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. 

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.