MEDLIFE'S Best New Chapter of the Year: University of Southern California - MEDLIFE

MEDLIFE’S Best New Chapter of the Year: University of Southern California

Starting a MEDLIFE chapter requires an impressive mix of creativity and dedication. While only one year old, the thriving chapter at the University of Southern California has demonstrated unflappable enthusiasm for bettering the lives of impoverished communities in both Latin America and Los Angeles. Through regular promotion of the organization, creative fundraising, and enthusiastic clinic participation, this new chapter has quickly emerged as one of MEDLIFE’s strongest.

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 After hearing positive reviews from a former clinic participant at NYU, USC biology major Nandi Shah was inspired to bring MEDLIFE to her university. The previous year she had volunteered with a different foundation on a one week medical brigade to Honduras, which she left with mixed feelings. “I saw how doctors were capable of solving problems,” she said, “but I also saw that their solution was temporary and inefficient.” Her curiosity led her to MEDLIFE’s website. She was struck by the organization’s focus on preventative health education and sustainable local involvement — two features that solidified her decision to start a MEDLIFE chapter at USC.

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In the spring of 2011, Nandi, with the help of her friend and the chapter’s co-founder, Nancy Brenner, began passing out flyers around campus and creating awareness about the group via Facebook. That summer, around ten USC students participated on a one week clinic to Tena, Ecuador, which provided medical care for 414 people and dental care for 314. Inspired by what they had witnessed in Ecuador and eager to do more, the new chapter organized a speaker event back on campus with the Associate Director of the Global Health Institute, Heather Wipfli. Ms. Wipfli addressed an auditorium of students on the environmental, developmental, and epidemiological factors responsible for many of the more entrenched problems in Lima’s urban slums. The group followed up the discussion with an informative presentation on MEDLIFE and its work in Latin America.

After receiving university recognition in the fall and diligently promoting MEDLIFE on pre-med blogs, listservs, and during classes, the budding group was bombarded with student interest. About 80 students applied for the 40 spots the executive board had allocated for the upcoming spring Mobile Clinic to Lima. Their creativity and dedication prompted them to organize Limapalooza, an on-campus fundraiser for the MEDLIFE Fund that ultimately raised over $1,300 in one night.USC Blog4lima
Chapter members charged a five dollar entrance fee to the event, which was held at an on-campus house and featured two student bands and a DJ. “The Facebook event page had a link to MEDLIFE’s website and tons of information about the work they do in Latin America,” said Nandi. “The party was packed, and it was a great way to get the word out about the organization.”

Individual participation fee fundraising was just as creative. Several students took cookie orders and sold them on campus while others went to local pharmacies to solicit discounts on medical donations for the upcoming clinic. Once in Lima, the enthusiastic USC participants helped see 453 medical patients and 427 dental patients and built two new staircases in the dangerous, steep hillside of Pamplona Alta.


The chapter has spent the past months forming a local outreach committee responsible for organizing volunteer opportunities for USC students in nearby Los Angeles heath clinics and food kitchens. “We already have 25 people signed up for the clinic this winter,” said Nandi. “But our main focus now is how we can incorporate the global health model into local work.”