Six Vanderbilt students selected as Frist Global Health Leaders

Three students in the School of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing program and three rising fourth-year School of Medicine students have been selected as 2012 Frist Global Health Leaders. The program, established by Hope Through Healing Hands, provides young health professional students, residents, and fellows the opportunity to serve and train abroad in underserved communities for up to one semester.

“Working in the resource-limited settings among underserved communities in global health is absolutely the best training one can get in leadership, as it demands immense resourcefulness, creativity, patience, sensitivity and communication skills,” said Quentin Eichbaum, M.D., Ph.D., assistant dean for Program Development for VUMC.

With interests including surgical delivery systems, emergency medicine, health literacy and program improvement, women’s health, and HIV treatment and prevention, this year’s Vanderbilt Frist Global Health Leaders will spend up to four months working in low- and middle-income countries such as Haiti, Kenya, and Guatemala.

“These students have already accomplished much in their chosen areas of expertise and are committed to providing service in a global community,” said Linda Norman, DSN, MSN, senior associate dean of Academics for VUSN. “They are wonderful representatives of Vanderbilt and of the future of health care.”

The 2012 Frist Global Health Leaders from Vanderbilt are:

Katharine Burns

Katharine Burns, a third year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, having graduated as a Matthews Scholar with a B.S. degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2010, she was awarded the Benjamin H. Kean Traveling Fellowship in Tropical Medicine from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Vanderbilt University Overall Fellowship which afforded her the opportunity to conduct dengue virus research in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a former co-director of the medical school’s student-run Global Health Committee in 2010-2011, Katharine was instrumental in creating a database of global health research and service opportunities which is used by students and faculty across the medical and undergrad campuses. Other research interests include work with the Vanderbilt Spinal Column Surgical Quality and Outcomes Research Lab since 2010. As a Frist Leader, Katharine hopes to contribute to the global community by pursuing primary care work within an underserved population in rural Bolivia.


Elizabeth Harris

Elizabeth Harris, MBA, is a current M.S.N. student in the family nurse practitioner (FNP) specialty program at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She graduated with a B.A. degree in History with a certificate in International Relations from the University of Rochester and received a MBA degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. Her career in the domestic and international biopharmaceutical industry focused on management, operations, regulatory, and clinical affairs. She specialized in life-threatening diseases, specifically rare metabolic genetic disorders, infectious diseases, and oncology. She most recently served as a senior executive at Sopherion Therapeutics, where, in addition to management and commercial operations, her work included clinical study protocol design and implementation, preparation of clinical and regulatory documents for regulatory and IRB submissions, clinical study logistics, and clinical site recruitment. Upon completing her nursing education at Vanderbilt University, Elizabeth plans to work as a family nurse practitioner in under-served rural and international communities. Drawing on her clinical, business and operations background, she plans to collaborate with communities to design and implement self-sustaining programs to increase health literacy and health initiatives, specifically targeting preventable diseases and women’s health.

Courtney Massaro

Courtney Massaro, M.S.N., M.P.H., graduated in 2012 from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing program as a Certified Nurse-Midwifery/Family Nurse Practitioner. During her time at Vanderbilt, she was named a 2010-2011 Cal Turner Program Fellow. She received a B.A. degree in International Relations and French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia in 2003 and a Masters in Public Health degree from Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with a concentration in International Health and Development in 2008. She has served as a technical advisor for The Carter Center within the South Sudan Guinea Worm Eradication Program in 2006 and she worked with Relief International’s Healthy Start Child Survival Program in Niger in 2008. Courtney served as a Community Health Peace Corps Volunteer in Burkina Faso working to improve health outcomes through extensive health education work on topics including: HIV/AIDS, STI’s, reproductive health, nutrition, excision, diarrheal disease control, and immunizations. In the future, Courtney plans to devote her career to focusing on women’s health in resource-limited settings.

Ravi Patel

Ravi Patel is a third year medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2009 with a B.A. degree in Chemistry and Public Health. In 2011, he was awarded the AMA Foundation Leadership Award for his commitment to service, community involvement, and patient care. Ravi received the Nashville Metro Health Department’s Health Innovation Award for creating a novel program dedicated to changing the health behavior of residents in Nashville. He was selected as a finalist for the NEXT Awards Social Entrepreneur of the Year for his role in establishing the Nashville Mobile Market, a non-profit social enterprise venture that aims to increase access to healthy foods in Nashville communities. Ravi serves as the Co-Executive Director of the Shade Tree Clinic, a free student-run clinic for low income, uninsured individuals at Vanderbilt University. As a Frist Global Health Leader, Ravi plans to investigate general surgery systems in a developing country, specifically relating to trauma management in small community clinics and hospitals.

Kayla Thielk

Kayla Thielk is a current M.S.N. student at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and a 2010 graduate of Vanderbilt University with a B.A. degree in Medicine, Health, and Society. As an undergraduate student, she participated in several global health organizations and served on a medical mission trip to Ghana. Drawn to the relationship between inequality and health in communities, Kayla’s primary clinical focus has been working with HIV/AIDS populations in a variety of settings. As a future Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, she hopes to continue to her work in HIV prevention and treatment and to promote sustainability in international program development and implementation.

Tyler Winders

Tyler Winders is a third year M.D. student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. In 2009, he graduated as Valedictorian of his class with a B.S. degree in Biology from Truman State University. He received the Truman State University Presidential Leadership Award and was nominated for membership to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. Following his first year at the School of Medicine, Tyler traveled to Buenos Aires to work at Fundación Infant where he investigated incidence reporting variability of Respiratory Syncytial Virus among publications. As a career focus, Tyler is considering emergency medicine as it lends to his desire to be a true generalist and a effective agent of change in improving health outcomes in resource-limited settings. Since 2008, the Frist Global Health Leaders Program has supported fourteen Vanderbilt University students and recent graduates who have served and trained in under-served communities in Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Thailand. The Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health administers the program for students at Vanderbilt University. Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH) is a Nashville-based 501(c)(3) organization founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that promotes improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace.