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.”


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.