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About GPSA

GPSA for Health is a hands-on, academic, service-learning program for high school 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.

Karen Pereira, Regional Manager

Karen was born and raised in Guatemala. She earned a Bachelor´s degree in Archaeology in Guatemala City. Thanks to her career she was able to live and work in some of the most remote areas of this country. After some years of working as an archaeologist she decided to pursue a Master´s degree in Anthropology at the University of Florida. There, she was able to continue her education and to live and experience American culture first-hand. Afterwards she moved to Switzerland, where she learned French, took demography courses in the University of Geneva, and volunteered as conference assistant for the United Nations. Karen now lives in Totonicapán, a small town near Xela, and is committed to working with rural communities. In her free time she enjoys hiking with her husband and two kids, cooking, and reading contemporary literature!

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.

Nicole Wardlaw, Medical Fellow

Nicole graduated from Duke University with Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Political Science in 2015.  She has worked in pediatric care at Columbia University and recently joined the GPSA team.  She enjoys working with children and has engaged with youth in Texas, New Jersey North Carolina and China!  Nicole enjoys project planning and cross-cultural engagement.

Gabrielle Montes, Medical Fellow 

Gabrielle graduated from Duke University in May 2016 with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Chemistry. 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.

Gabriela Maldonado, Assistant Regional Manager for Admissions and Recruiting

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.

Vanessa Brombosz, Assistant Regional Manager, Operations

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.

Andrea Molina, 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.  lennert.rohde@gpsa.org