Future CMA Docs: CNUCOM Global Health Dream Team

August 31, 2018
Area(s) of Interest: Cultural Competency Medical School Physician Workforce 


  • Purnima Gurung
  • Kyumin Shim
  • Han (Cindy) Lam
  • Aaron Yim
  • Shebani Dandekar

Medical School:California Northstate University College of Medicine

City:Elk Grove


California medical students win AMA Global Health Challenge

A team of five medical students from California beat out applicants from across the country to win the American Medical Association (AMA) Global Health Challenge.

The winning team attends California Northstate University College of Medicine (CNUCOM) in Elk Grove. The relatively new institution was founded in 2015 and will be graduating its first class next year.  The students—who call themselves the CNUCOM Global Health Dream Team— won the opportunity to work alongside Timmy Global Health to care for patients in underserved populations abroad. Timmy Global Health is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that expands access to health care and empowers students and volunteers to tackle today’s most pressing global health challenges.

“We decided to participate in this Global Health Challenge to expand our experiences with culturally diverse populations and deepen our understanding of their culture and community values,” said team member Aaron Yim on behalf of CNUCOM Global Health Dream Team. “Developing these experiences will help us care for our future patients beyond the clinic to include their values and socioeconomic obstacles in order to provide culturally competent care.”

The winning team was chosen based on their essay and video submissions.

The contest, sponsored by the AMA Insurance Agency, Inc., was open to teams of at least two and up to five pre-medical and medical students, residents and students in allied health fields from across the country. Each team was asked to submit an essay of 500 words or less answering the question: “How can a deeper understanding of the social determinants of health help you, as an aspiring global health professional, to learn and grow?” The pool of applicants was narrowed down to 10 finalists and asked to create and submit a video for posting on the contest website as part of the final round of the challenge. CNUCOM Global Health Dream Team’s essay and video submission can be found at amaghc.com.

Five second-year med students make up this year’s winning team: Purnima Gurung, who received her undergraduate degree in neuroscience and her master’s in global medicine from the University of Southern California; Kyumin Shim, who, during her undergraduate years at UC Davis, travelled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic to work alongside local medical professionals to provide free health care; Han (Cindy) Lam, who studied Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley; Aaron Yim, who double majored in Environmental Studies and Biological Sciences at UC Santa Barbara; and, team leader, Shebani Dandekar, who earned her BS in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior with a minor in Music from UC Davis and an MS in Global Health Sciences from UC San Francisco.  The primary focus of their video submission was empathy.

“Empathy connects us with the world and makes us better doctors,” states a graphic in the Dream Team’s video.  Their essay reads, in part, that they “believe a deeper understanding of our patients’ narratives, including the social determinants of their health, cultivates the communication skills and open-mindedness necessary to provide personalized care.”  The teammates volunteer at Clinica Tepati, a free student-run clinic that provides health care to underserved populations in Sacramento.  As a result of their encounters with patients at the clinic, the team wrote, “We aspire to increase our global health knowledge in order to become physicians who can advocate for patients of diverse backgrounds.”

Later this year, the CNUCOM Global Health Dream Team will travel abroad to Ecuador, Guatemala or the Dominican Republic with Timmy Global Heath to care for underserved populations.

 “The winning team from California Northstate University, College of Medicine embodies the ideals we most sought in this contest: empathy, a desire to learn and grow, and deep compassion for patients. We are grateful to the AMA for sponsoring this contest and for supporting this team of future health care providers. We are excited to have them join forces with Timmy Global Health, partnering in pursuit of a healthier and more equitable world,” said Timmy Global Health’s Executive Director Kristina Graff.

“By volunteering with Timmy Global Health, we are excited to challenge ourselves by providing health care in a resource limited environment that is different from what we are used to,” added Yim. “We want to bring the experiences and culturally sensitive skills back home and incorporate them while serving our communities and volunteering at local clinics, such as Clinica Tepati, in Sacramento.”

The AMA Global Health Challenge was created by the AMA Insurance Agency’s Med Plus Advantage program. The Med Plus Advantage program partners with International Medical Group to promote the contest and offers international medical insurance for those traveling abroad. To learn more about coverage for allied health students, medical students, residents, and their families visit medplustravel.com.


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