MEDLIFE Chapter Spotlight: University of Pennsylvania


This blog is part of a series showcasing chapters that won awards in this year’s MEDLIFE Awards. Each week we will be talking to a chapter to hear about their keys to success. Find out how to start a MEDLIFE chapter at your school HERE.


This year, the University of Pennsylvania was awarded the MEDLIFE Social Media Award. MEDLIFE UPenn uses their social media as a tool to effectively communicate with their members to educate and spread awareness. They have held initiatives such as “Public Health Week” in which they created a short video series explaining various public health issues. They have their own website, blog, and even a youtube channel!


We caught up with the president of the University of Pennsylvania chapter, Santosh Nori, to hear more about their recent success as a chapter. 


14 12 6400Members of the University of Pennsylvania Chapter of MEDLIFE


How did you start to work with MEDLIFE? Why did you choose MEDLIFE?


I started to work with MEDLIFE during my freshman year of college. Coming into college, I knew that I was interested in global health, and really wanted to get involved with some service oriented activities related to this subject. I joined MEDLIFE, and a couple of other global health clubs, just to get a feel for which one was the best fit. In the end, I chose MEDLIFE because of all of the service opportunities our chapter provided that allowed us to actually make a difference both within Philadelphia and internationally and because of the awesome people that made up the chapter!


What new strategies have you used as President of your Chapter to gather support and inspire students to work with MEDLIFE?


As the recently elected president of MEDLIFE Penn, one my main goals was to foster a sense of community within MEDLIFE on campus. My exec board and I strongly believed that this was one of the most important things to address, insofar as a sense of community lends itself to more engaged members and a more enjoyable and meaningful experience for students within MEDLIFE. We have implemented a “family group” system, where students across different committees  are essentially grouped into different “families” that are able to bond outside MEDLIFE. As such, there is more connection between students in different committees. This has also drawn in a number of general members, increasing our recruitment interest for next semester.


In your opinion, what is your chapter’s greatest achievement?


In my opinion, our chapter’s greatest achievement this year was our Community Engagement committee’s recent initiative on inner city education. Our community engagement committee has put together a global health curriculum to present to students in inner city schools, particularly in underprivileged areas of Philadelphia, to inform students more about facets of public health and to inspire them to explore studies and careers in these facets. They have just successfully piloted the initiative this semester, and plan to open up the project to all MEDLIFE members and more schools next semester.


What did you do to get people engaged?


One thing that my exec board and I felt was crucial for member engagement was connecting members to the different health issues that they were working on in MEDLIFE. In other words, we felt that students really did not know a lot about the health issues that they were tackling within the Philadelphia community and that MEDLIFE as a whole was tackling internationally. As such, we wanted to educate our members, as well as Penn’s campus, about these efforts and issues through a number of lectures by reputed public health experts on campus, MEDLIFE staff who Skyped in from Lima, and even other students.


14 12 1993Members of MEDLIFE UPenn attending the “Mindless Medicine” Lecture event


What is your most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE?


My most memorable experience working with MEDLIFE was volunteering at a homeless shelter in Philadelphia as a freshman, where other members and I were able to cook a meal for the poor that were at the shelter. It was a very fulfilling experience, and I was able to meet new members and really bond with them over the experience.


What plans do you have for the future of your chapter?


With regard to the short term future, I am looking to improve the general member experience at our chapter through more engaging campus events. In the long term, I would really like to have our chapter of MEDLIFE start a global health and international development oriented journal. A number of health organizations have done this on campus, however, such a journal doesn’t exist for students interested in global health, international development, and service. A thirst for knowledge and information in these areas on campus, both on an academic and pre-professional level, provides a niche for a journal focusing on these areas. Putting out a journal can help raise awareness for MEDLIFE, our chapter’s efforts, and our cause. 


Do you have any advice for other chapters?


One of my biggest pieces of advice based on my experiences thus far is that MEDLIFE should be approached from a perspective of what makes your members gain the most out of their experiences with the chapter. If students really enjoy being a part of the chapter and are interested in the work that the chapter does, they will remain committed to the chapter and really give their best, leading to better service and awareness.


14 12 0719Volunteer from MEDLIFE at the University of Pennsylvania


Hear it From MEDLIFErs

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Reya Seby
Western University

This trip motivated me more to pursue a career in the healthcare field so that I can use my resources to help those who need it the most, similar to MEDLIFE’s mission.

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Victoria DiCanio
University of Connecticut

It was most enjoyable to finish the hard work and see how big a difference a group of individuals can make. It was such an amazing experience.

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Anita Woo
University of Toronto

I enjoyed the mobile clinics the most, especially the dental and triage portions. I would definitely recommend a MEDLIFE trip, it was a great experience.

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David Saff
Maclay High School

The most enjoyable part of my trip was hanging out with the amazing group of kids I was with. I would highly recommend a MEDLIFE volunteer trip to others.

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Sydney Sansone
Nova Southeastern University

This trip made everything that I was learning in my public health courses come to life and immersed me in a new culture while also learning about medicine.

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Abygail Youmans
College of Charleston

Being involved with MEDLIFE is not like joining another club - its bigger than that. It is about joining a movement that seeks to help change people’s quality of life for forever.

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Emi Hofmann
University of Central Florida

Not only was I able to participate in a week long Mobile Clinic, shadowing doctors of all types of specialties including pharmacy, dentistry, gynecology, and more, but I was also able to learn about the culture and visit incredible places.

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Julian Takagi-Stewart
University of Toronto

One thing that I really loved about this trip was that MEDLIFE made sure that the volunteers got an understanding of the complexity of issues that lead to underprivileged people in communities outside of the main city

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Hannah Van Hofwegen
University of Ottawa

Whether it was basketball with the local kids, assisting the doctors, talking with families, building washrooms, holding babies, or spending time with the people who were on the SLT with me, this was an amazing opportunity that I would do over and over again.

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Isabelle Holt
Cornell University

I loved learning about the patients MEDLIFE has followed and how they offer real help to people with chronic/urgent conditions. It is amazing how the organization formed real connections with the communities.

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Valerie Lindeborg

Our family had the privilege of participating in multiple trips with Nick [founder] and his amazing staff. Their expertise made the trips unforgettable while instilling in my boys the fundamentals of good character: selflessness, compassion, and empathy.

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Harry Vildibill
University of Georgia

As an aspiring physician, MEDLIFE motivated me to further continue my goal of becoming a doctor. In fact, I enjoyed the Tanzania Service Learning Trip so much that I decided to go on another trip to Cusco, Peru.