VUSM Graduate Receives 2023 Vermund Award for Excellence in Global Health

Sten H. Vermund Award for Excellence in Global Health
Alexander S. Mina

The Sten H. Vermund Award for Excellence in Global Health recognizes the graduating medical student who has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving the health of the people of or from low- or middle-income countries through distinguished scholarship, education, and/or contributions to the improvement of clinical care. The award was established in 2017 to honor Dr. Sten H. Vermund, the founding director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health. 

minaAlexander “Alex” Mina has demonstrated a strong and impressive commitment to global health surgery, research, and quality improvement while studying at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. His work exemplifies Dr. Vermund’s commitment to sustainable, equitable, and intentional global health partnerships. During his third and fourth years in medical school, Alex spent four months at AIC Kijabe Hospital in Kenya, completing two clinical rotations, a QI project, and a research project. Reflecting on his time in Kenya, Alex said, “this was one of the best experiences of my life. The relationships, the impact, the continuity, and the power of witnessing change inspired me to be the best I can be to serve others.” Alex was both impacted by his global health engagement and left a lasting impact on the communities where he worked.

Alex compared two-hour, one-hour, and zero-hour fasting policies on patient outcomes in pediatric surgery for his quality improvement project. Alex, who taught himself Swahili while in Kenya, translated documents into Swahili, interviewed patients before surgery, and identified stakeholders for policy change. Demonstrating collaborative global health work, he worked with a local pediatric surgery fellow who completed the first project phase and presented at a Kenyan national conference. Alex returned nine months later to initiate the second phase of the project. The outcomes of this project informed a change in hospital policy to significantly decrease fasting times for pediatric anesthesiology, improving patient experiences without impacting clinical outcomes.

Continuing to work closely with the Kenyan team, Alex conducted a global surgery research immersion project on central line-associated bloodstream infection rates and established a pediatric central line database at AIC Kijabe Hospital. His work included collecting data and analyzing patient demographics, catheter specifications, procedural techniques, and their impact on complications and infection rates. He presented these findings at multiple conferences, including at the Tennessee Chapter of the American College of Surgeons conference and the Academic Surgical Congress. This database provides hospital staff with a better understanding of infection rates and causes and will be a valuable resource in decreasing infections.

Alex has also been involved in global health on campus and the Nashville community. He serves as the Vice President of the Global Surgery Student Alliance, provides clinical care at Shade Tree Clinic (a clinic for underinsured or uninsured people), and presented at the Vanderbilt Global Health Symposium. After earning his MD in May 2023, Alex will attend Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas for residency in general surgery.