MIDP Students Visit Guatemala for Innovation Service Project

Krystyna Barnard
June 26, 2017

First-year students in the Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP) recently visited Guatemala for a weeklong innovation service project led by Brent Savoie, J.D., M.D., Department of Radiology & Radiological Sciences faculty and cofounder of Primeros Pasos.

Primeros Pasos is a non-profit organization that aims to improve the quality of life and health care in Guatemala’s rural communities.

During the service project, MIDP students Ariel Kniss-James, Sai Rajagopalan and Jessica Wen visited Primeros Pasos, university partners and partner organizations, including the Moore Center, to identify opportunities where collaboration and innovation can help meet global healthcare challenges.

“I found that global health problems share common themes and threads all over the world,” said Rajagopalan. “Social determinants of healthcare play an overwhelming role in contributing towards poor health when compared to developed countries.”

Language barriers, poor literacy levels and limited access to affordable nourishment were among the issues that the MIDP students identified as challenge areas for health care providers in the Guatemalan communities in which they visited.

“These problems are difficult to solve in isolation and thus require broad-based collaboration and networking between organizations that serve different issues in the local communities,” added Rajagopalan.

During the project, students completed the observation and ideation phases of the innovative cycle while obtaining in-depth input from partner organization about the challenges they are facing.

Dr. Savoie said upon their return, students will participate in 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 those organizations.

“Thanks to extraordinary support from the MIDP program and Dr. Savoie, we have a better understanding of how to think about and approach innovation in global health,” said Rajagopalan.

“I’m excited to see what we can accomplish in helping these organizations develop strategies to better facilitate the work of students and universities engaged in research and innovation,” added Dr. Savoie. “I also look forward to identifying additional opportunities for collaborative innovation in the future.”



Dr. Savoie (left) and MIDP students Sai Rajagopalan (middle left), Jessica Wen (middle right) and Ariel Kniss-James (right) visit Primeros Pasos.


Kniss-James, Wen and Rajagopalan on service innovation project in Guatemala. 


Rajagopalan, Kniss-James, Wen and Dr. Savoie visit local historic sites in Guatemala.

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