Emily Deibert Cisneros, Team Leader
Emily grew up in several Southeastern states and the UK, and is still hooked on moving every few years. Now a second year medical student at the Florida State University College of Medicine, she is currently living in her 7th city since leaving home for Davidson College in 2007. Before diving into medicine, she taught in South Korea and worked in Switzerland, discovering a love for kimchi and skiing. She is somewhat addicted to novelty – of food, people, places, experiences – but also a creature of habit. When she isn’t studying the Krebs cycle, yet again, she can be found experimenting with new recipes, attempting to play the piano, practicing her Spanish, enjoying non-fiction books and Oscar-worthy movies, or compulsively Googling cheap flights to plan the next adventure.
Tim Walsh, Team Member
After growing up in Florida as the youngest of 4 children, Tim went to the University of Chicago. He played on the varsity tennis team and discovered his passion for HIV prevention while volunteering with HIV/AIDS-related NGOs in Bolivia and Argentina. After college, he worked as a 9th grade biology teacher on Chicago’s Southside with Teach For America. He misses his students but is thrilled to see them excelling in college and recently ran into one when they landed in the same Uber Carpool. Tim is currently a second year medical student at the Florida State University College of Medicine. When not studying, he loves drinking carbonated water and daydreaming about his next race. He has run the Chicago marathon twice, and cannot wait for the next one!
Sara Ardila, Team Member
Sara was born and raised in Colombia, the country. Growing up, she enjoyed learning about French culture, playing tennis, and reading books from her favorite authors, Isabel Allende and J.K. Rowling. She moved to Florida at the age of fifteen where she attended high school, obtained a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science from the University of Florida (Go Gators!), and is now pursuing an MD at the Florida State University College of Medicine. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and roller coasters. She is passionate about multilingualism and speaks French with her niece who lives in Belgium, Spanish with her father and grandmother who live in Colombia, and English to survive in United States. In the future, she hopes to become fluent in Portuguese and Italian.
Thomas Paterniti, Team Member
Thomas grew up in Charleston, SC, where he developed a love for reading early on thanks to multiple weekly trips to the library with his mom. Thomas’ CV looks like it was written by a compulsive liar – he attended SC Governor’s School for the Arts, marched in a drum corp, was a football coach, taught Greek and Latin for 11 years, and once cut a very large tree in half with an axe. He got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Classics before embarking on a medical career at the Florida State University College of Medicine. His inspiration is his father, who saw a need in his community and decided to address it by starting Charleston’s only furniture bank. Thomas enjoys the community of students at FSU and tries to get some studying done between runs to the coffee shop and intramural soccer games.
We are four medical students whose cross-cultural experiences with HIV have enabled us to approach our future patients with humility, determination to preserve their dignity, and a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. We make a great team because our diversity of experiences equips us to approach complex problems from multiple complementary perspectives.
Sara first encountered HIV-associated health inequalities in her native Colombia. At the University of Florida, she worked with the Minority AIDS Program to provide free HIV testing and counseling to minorities, LGBTQ community members, and migrant workers. Fluent in Spanish, she spent significant time in the fields translating and witnessed firsthand the alienating stigma of an HIV diagnosis. These experiences have fueled her passion to educate the community about HIV, promote sexual health awareness, and increase access to care by reducing the stigma surrounding HIV.
Thomas founded a program in Uganda that provides HIV screenings to rural prisoners. Volunteering at HIV clinics, he learned that Ugandan women are more likely to be infected than men, and that men are often too ashamed to go to the clinic. He also found that many prisoners knew their HIV status, but had become disconnected from receiving their medications. By providing screening programs, he partnered with the community to reconnect local health centers with the prison population. In medical school, he has been involved with a community health program that similarly links low-income residents to available health resources.
Emily has lived in England, Greece, South Korea, worked for the United Nations in Switzerland, and is married to a native Ecuadorian. Her global experiences compelled her to become active in shaping health policy. She advocated at UNAIDS and the WHO for the integration of food and nutrition into HIV prevention and treatment policies. On missions to Kenya and South Africa with the World Food Program, she witnessed how food insecurity increases HIV exposure and impairs access to treatment, and how malnourishment increases mortality. She worked with national counterparts to incorporate nutritional rehabilitation into HIV treatment, and coordinated grant reporting in 42 countries.
Tim’s passion for HIV care began with a community-based organization in Bolivia. This inspired his research to understand HIV’s impact on the Southside of Chicago, where he discovered that HIV rates were much higher among African American gay men and published a paper highlighting the need for an equitable distribution of HIV prevention services. With the advent of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily medication dramatically reducing the risk of HIV transmission, he set out to eliminate this disparity by starting “PrEP Chicago,” a project that empowers young African American gay men to increase awareness about this medication in their communities. To date, 150 “change agents” have been trained.
Our experiences working on HIV around the globe have shown us that human suffering is universal and that eliminating it requires direct engagement with those affected. We believe that empowering local communities involves understanding their needs and priorities above our own and partnering with them to improve education, access, prevention, and treatment.