MIDP Students to Embark on Innovation Service Project in Guatemala

Krystyna Barnard
February 28, 2017

Next month, students in the Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP) will embark on a weeklong innovation service project in Guatemala. 

During their trip, MIDP students Ariel Kniss-James, Sai Rajagopalan and Jessica Wen will work with organizations and health care providers to identify opportunities where innovation can help meet global health challenges. Brent Savoie, J.D., M.D., Department of Radiology faculty and cofounder of Primeros Pasos, a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life and health care in Guatemala’s rural communities, will lead the service project.

“I'm very excited to have the opportunity to lead the MIDP trip to Guatemala, and am grateful for the support of the School of Medicine,” said Dr. Savoie. “It will offer the MIDP students an invaluable opportunity to learn and use the power of innovation to address the healthcare needs of those living in resource-limited environments.” 

“The service trip to Guatemala is an exciting opportunity to learn about the Guatemalan health care system outside of the traditional classroom setting,” added first-year MIDP student Ariel Kniss-James. “I am honored to be part of a community that values global service trips and thankful to have the support to be embedded in different health care settings for a week this spring.”

Students will visit urban and rural medical facilities where they will experience first-hand the challenges facing health care providers in underserved communities.

“I look forward to better understanding the challenges patients face, and hope to come away with ideas that we can continue to innovate during our time at Vanderbilt,” said Kniss-James.  

The primary goal of the service project is to complete the observation and ideation phases of the innovative cycle while obtaining input from Guatemalan-based partners about the challenges they are facing and developing initial ideas for potential solutions. Upon their return, students will conduct rapid prototyping of potential solutions, gain user feedback and iterate those solutions to not only develop new technology, but also to introduce existing technology to meet the needs of the partner organizations.

“Several of the organizations already have long-standing relationships with Vanderbilt,” said Dr. Savoie. “The service trip will enhance our ability to develop more meaningful relationships in the future, and hopefully come away with innovative solutions to meet their health care needs.”


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